The Panthers could know Jonathan Stewart’s status for the regular season by Tuesday morning.
That’s when the sixth-year Panthers running back is scheduled to meet with a doctor to further examine his right ankle, which has kept Stewart sidelined for the entire preseason.
“It’s one of those things, he’s still going through a couple other things with the doctor,” coach Ron Rivera said. “ … It’s one of those things that we’re just waiting to get the answer.”
Stewart has been on the preseason physically unable to perform list since reporting to training camp in late July. He has not practiced or participated in a game since suffering a high ankle sprain against Philadelphia last November.
The question facing the Panthers is whether to place him on the regular-season PUP list or keep him on the active roster. The deadline for PUP assignment is Saturday afternoon, and a move to that list would mean Stewart would sit the first six weeks of the season while not counting against the 53-man roster.
“I think everything’s an option but we have to see exactly what the doctor tells us and that’s what we’re waiting on is, what is the time frame,” Rivera said.
Because of his inactivity on the field, it’s unlikely Stewart would be ready for Week1 on Sept.8. When asked how optimistic he was that Stewart would not begin the season on PUP, Rivera didn’t seem overly so.
“Semi, sort of, kind of, not necessarily but somewhere in there,” he said dryly.
OFFENSIVE WOES: Despite the struggles of Carolina’s first-string offense, Rivera believes his starting group has the ability to be as dynamic as it’s been in his first two seasons as coach.
“It has in places and it’s had opportunities to be dynamic,” Rivera said. “We had a few drops in the Ravens game (Thursday), and that was disappointing. Guys who have been having great camps dropped the ball and we can’t have that. We missed a couple throws on guys who were wide open, a little too far out front or a little on the hip.
“But again, you’ve got to make those plays and convert it because that’s who we are. We go here, we go there and then bam we hit you with a big play. So we’ve got to get better at those things.”
A Carolina offense led by Cam Newton has mustered just one touchdown in 14 drives this preseason, and that came on a short field (18 yards) in the first exhibition. Only twice have the Panthers even made it to the red zone this preseason with the first-string offense.
“I’m OK with it just to the fact that there are some things that we aren’t doing right now,” Rivera said. “There is some concern because when you look at it, it’s a breakdown here or breakdown there.
“We’ve had some opportunities and there’s been some miscommunication between the wide receiver and the quarterback, a missed block on a first and goal, you miss a block and next thing you know it’s second and long. You can’t have those; you can’t have those negative possessions and that’s what’s hurt us more so than anything else.”
INJURY UPDATE: The usual suspects were on the exercise bikes Monday.
Wide receiver Joe Adams (calf), tight end Ben Hartsock (foot), fullback Mike Tolbert (hamstring), guard Jeff Byers (knee), guard Amini Silatolu (hamstring) and guard Edmund Kugbila (hamstring) did not practice.
Byers’ injury is on the same knee that forced him to miss one game late last season and he will likely sit out Thursday’s exhibition.
Wide receiver Armanti Edwards returned to practice, and Rivera said he’s “not as far back as” fellow receiver Domenik Hixon, who also returned to practice this week.
Hartsock is in a cast as a precaution for his plantar fasciitis but said he expects to be ready for Week 1. When asked how the injury came about, Hartsock said, “Being 33.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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