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Carolina Panthers notes: Jonathan Stewart could return to practice next week

After his most strenuous workout of the season, running back Jonathan Stewart could be ready to return to practice next week.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said if Stewart doesn’t suffer any setbacks Saturday after his workout, Stewart, who’s been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of the season, will return to practice next week.

Carolina has a three-week window from the time a player on PUP begins practicing to activate him, but the Panthers hope they don’t have to wait that long. With a short week next week at Tampa Bay on Thursday, Rivera is hopeful Stewart could appear in the Week 9 game at home against Atlanta.

“They put him through a very rigorous workout. I got a chance to watch from the side,” Rivera said. “Just to see him moving around, I was very pleased to see it. They really had him cutting and breaking and turning. They had him pulling the sled, pushing the sled. The training staff put him through the paces of what he could expect going forward.”

Stewart said Monday there’s still pain in his right ankle, which he had scoped in the offseason. He hasn’t played or practiced since suffering an ankle sprain against Philadelphia in November.

“If everything comes into fold and he’s healthy, then we can start looking at getting ready to start that timetable,” Rivera said.

Injury report: Rivera said he was a little discouraged by defensive tackle Dwan Edwards’ setback on Friday, and the Panthers listed Edwards as doubtful for Sunday’s game.

“We’ll see how he is (Saturday),” Rivera said. “He did a little bit of work but for the most part he backed down compared to what he did in the first couple of days.”

Edwards practiced this week for the first time since Week 2 at Buffalo. He’s been battling a hamstring injury since the preseason, and it took him more than a month to get back on the practice field.

Should he be unable to go, Colin Cole will get the start while rookie Kawann Short will rotate in.

RB Kenjon Barner (foot), S Robert Lester (hamstring), CB Melvin White (concussion) and TE Greg Olsen (foot) are probable for Sunday. Olsen had Wednesday off but took the snaps he was supposed to on Thursday and Friday, which are the route-running days.

CB D.J. Moore (knee) was limited in practice, returning to the field in pads for the first time since Week 2. The Panthers are aiming to have him back next week.

Panthers’ pick: St. Louis wide receiver Tavon Austin was on the Panthers’ draft radar in the spring before being taken at No. 8 by the Rams, six picks before the Panthers were on the board.

The former West Virginia standout was coveted by many teams in search of a slot receiver. Rivera said he liked what he saw out of Austin – an “explosive, dynamic player” who could have learned behind Steve Smith.

Carolina selected Star Lotulelei with the 14th overall pick.

“It would have been a definite consideration, but it worked out,” Rivera said of if Austin being there at No. 14. “We got what we were looking for. Our first choice, unbelievable as it was to have Star sitting there and you noticed it didn’t take us very long to put the card in.”

Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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