Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers can afford to be cautious with running back Jonathan Stewart.
The backfield has the most depth on the team with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, so if Stewart experiences a little soreness while recovering from an ankle sprain, the Panthers will sit him at practice.
Thats just what they did Tuesday.
It was one of those things where if one guy is nicked, we can lean on another guy and we feel pretty comfortable with that, Rivera said. We just have to continue to keep working him, rather than bring him out on a day that is more like a highlight-type day. You dont want to get him out and expose him to injury.
Stewart worked out an awful lot on Monday, Rivera said, and he was sorer than the team anticipated. The coach said the running back, who signed a five-year, $36.5 million contract extension with the team in mid-August, was moving around really nice and Rivera was encouraged.
He made the trip with the team Tuesday to Florida, where it will avoid the distractions of the Democratic National Convention and prepare for its Week 1 opponents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tuesdays practice was meant to introduce some basic installations for the first-, second- and third-down offenses and defenses, Rivera said.
With their last preseason game falling on a Thursday, the Panthers have two extra days of normal preparation for Tampa Bay.
BYERS ALSO SITS: Backup guard/center Jeff Byers also had the day off Tuesday as he recovers from a sprained MCL.
Byers, who is entering his second season, sprained his MCL during the third quarter of the final preseason game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. An MRI showed it was a second-degree sprain.
But rather than exiting the game, Byers, who was fighting for a spot on the final roster with cuts looming the following day, refused to come out of the game and played the rest of the way.
I think that speaks well for who he is and the toughness we want to have on this football team, Rivera said. It was real impressive. He told me and he wouldnt come out. Hes that type of kid.
Rivera said Byers should be back on the field Wednesday.
LEAVING EARLY: The Panthers left Charlotte at 6 p.m. Tuesday to go to Bradenton, Fla.
Team practices will take place at IMG Academy. They are closed to the public.