As one Panthers star who rarely deals with injuries returns to the field this week at training camp, another oft-injured star heads back to the sideline.
Carolina starting quarterback Cam Newton will participate fully in camp four months after having offseason ankle surgery, but running back Jonathan Stewart will be out one to two weeks as he nurses a pulled hamstring.
Stewart injured his hamstring while training a week-and-a-half ago, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. He is one of four Panthers who will not begin camp healthy, and the hamstring adds to a heap of injuries suffered by the running back in the past three seasons.
But coach Ron Rivera, ever the optimist when it comes to his players’ injuries, didn’t seem concerned for Stewart’s regular-season status.
“(It’s) not as disheartening as I think people would think because he’s been doing a lot of good things. He had a good (organized team activities) and minicamp. He was working very hard,” Rivera said. “I talked to Jonathan (Wednesday) when he came in to see (head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion), and it didn’t seem or sound as serious as some hamstrings can be.”
The Panthers could have placed Stewart on the non-football injury list because the injury was suffered before the players reported for camp, but that would have prohibited Stewart from participating in team meetings or walk-throughs.
Rivera said Stewart will do “some basic stuff” but his rehab will mostly be done with Vermillion.
Stewart, 27, missed just two games in his first four seasons with the Panthers, and those were due to a concussion. But his injuries came quickly and often starting in the 2012 preseason. He’s missed 16 games in the past two seasons.
Stewart injured his right ankle in a preseason game in 2012 and played nine regular season games. He injured his other ankle late in the season against the Eagles and missed the remainder of the season.
After offseason surgery on both ankles in 2013, Stewart was placed on the physically unable to perform list at training camp last year. He didn’t return to action until November. He tore his MCL in Week 14 against the Saints and missed the rest of the year.
As for Newton, Rivera doesn’t expect the quarterback to be limited in any capacity unless he has an issue from his ankle.
“I saw him today bouncing around so I’m pretty excited to see him on the football field (Friday),” Rivera said.
Second-year guard Edmund Kugbila will miss the entire 2014 season after his back surgery on Aug. 8, Gettleman said. Kugbila, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has never played a down of preseason or regular season pro football.
Kugbila suffered hamstring and knee injuries last year that kept him out of camp except for a handful of snaps. He was placed on injured reserve and missed the season. He injured his back during the offseason and won’t be available until 2015.
“We got excited about him and unfortunately this happened,” Rivera said. “We’ll see how it goes and hopefully he can get it taken care of. You’ve got to look at it as down the line now.”
Wide receiver DeAndre Presley (stress fracture) and safety Tre Boston (sports hernia) will start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Presley went to Greensboro with Newton and the receivers last week to work before camp but did not participate in drills.
Left guard Amini Silatolu said his right knee is 100 percent after tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the 2013 season.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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