For the second time in three weeks, the Panthers could be short-handed in the backfield.
Jonathan Stewart, who missed the Week 1 loss at Tampa Bay with a sprained ankle, is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game against the New York Giants. Stewart has not practiced all week while recovering from a toe injury.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said trainers will work Thursday with Stewart, who will be a game-time decision. Stewart also was listed as questionable after not practicing before the opener, and did not play against the Bucs.
“It’s one of those things where if we’re playing on Sunday, he’s got a much, much better chance than he does if we’re playing on Thursday,” Rivera said. “He came out, and it was still a little stiff, a little bit sore. They’re going to continue to work it out and see how he is.”
As to why Stewart was listed with an ankle injury all week, Rivera said: “It’s more of a thing where the toe’s connected to the ankle.”
Rivera said Stewart does not have turf toe. “I’m not quite sure how to explain it,” Rivera added. “But it’s sore.”
With Stewart sidelined against Tampa Bay, the Panthers tied a franchise low with 10 rushing yards. Stewart was back in the lineup last week as Carolina ran for 219 yards against New Orleans. Stewart rushed for 51 yards on 11 carries, and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Running back DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert will share reps if Stewart doesn’t play.
The Bell tolls: Right tackle Byron Bell also is questionable after spraining his ankle late in the win against New Orleans. Like Stewart, Bell figures to be a game-time decision.
Garry Williams, who started 11 games in 2010, took the majority of the first-team reps this week in place of Bell and is likely to start. Bruce Campbell, acquired in a trade from Oakland during the offseason, also worked at right tackle this week.
Rivera said he likes Williams’ game experience. After starting for most of the 2010 season, Williams spent last season on injured reserve after breaking his ankle during a preseason game.
“Garry looks solid. He picked it up right back to where he was last year before he got hurt,” Rivera said. “It’s good to see him moving around like he has been.”
“That (experience) is one of the things you have a lot of confidence in,” Rivera added. “The thing you really like about Bruce is he’s an athletic guy, a powerful guy. He’s a young guy that’s still learning. … If we’ve got to play Bruce, the big thing with Bruce is he’s going to have just listen to the calls and use his techniques.”
The rest of the injury report:
• Backup guard/center Mike Pollak (shoulder) is out.
• Linebacker Thomas Davis (hamstring) and special teams player Colin Jones (shoulder) are questionable, although Rivera said Davis has a good chance of playing.
• Linebacker Jon Beason (elbow), center Ryan Kalil (ankle), wide receivers Steve Smith (knee) and Kealoha Pilares (foot) are probable. Rivera said including Smith on the injury list is “more of a formality.”
Big game: Left tackle Jordan Gross told teammates that last week’s game against New Orleans was a must-win. So what does that make Thursday’s game against the reigning Super Bowl champs?
“It’s a game I think we all kind of circled when the schedule came out as an important one for us. Two and one is a great start, and 1-2 is a hole you have to get out of,” Gross said. “No matter who it is, this is a big game for us. But having the world champions coming here against a great defensive front, that’s going to provide a lot of challenge for us (and) really can help us catapult if we get the win.”
Staff writer Ron Green Jr. contributed.