Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams was a full participant at practice Wednesday for the first time in three weeks, and all signs point to him playing Sunday against Baltimore.
Williams has battled a hamstring injury suffered during a Week 2 practice and has been inactive the past two games. With fullback Mike Tolbert out until mid-November and running back Jonathan Stewart likely out for Sunday, Williams is getting healthy at just the right time for Carolina.
“Today he took every snap he was supposed to,” coach Ron Rivera said. “I think we had 42 total snaps and I’m going to bet he took 30 of them. Hopefully (Thursday) he’ll feel pretty good in the morning, no residual. And then he’ll take a few more snaps each day.”
Stewart said his prognosis is week-to-week after he suffered a severe knee sprain Sunday night against Pittsburgh. Running back Fozzy Whittaker is still sidelined with a quadriceps injury.
The Panthers brought up practice squad running back Darrin Reaves to the 53-man roster last week, and quarterback Cam Newton refused for it to be doom and gloom in the backfield.
“We’ve got DeAngelo coming back,” Newton said. “I’m excited. You’re not going to get this woe-is-me attitude. This person is hurt, that person is hurt … that’s a losing attitude. We’re trying to flush that down the system.”
Richie Brockel will take the fullback snaps in place of Tolbert. While he’s a good blocker and pass protector, Brockel is not as nimble as Tolbert on the run.
“We’ll see how that shakes out,” Brockel said about potentially getting touches.
Davis has two injuries: During the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis pulled up lame and was clutching at the back of his left knee on LeGarrette Blount’s 50-yard run.
When Wednesday’s injury report came out, the only injury listed for Davis was to his hip.
“That (knee) is not why he missed practice,” Rivera said. “He could’ve practiced with it.”
Davis had tape on the outside of his left knee and along his lower back while walking through the locker room. He did not speak to reporters.
Davis, who has come back from three anterior cruciate ligament surgeries to his right knee, was on the injury report last week with the hip issue. Rivera said Davis would be evaluated Friday but conceded it’s “usually not a good sign” when players miss Wednesday and Thursday practices, which are the biggest work days.
With Davis’s status in doubt, the Panthers added to their linebacker depth by re-signing former Independence and Appalachian State linebacker D.J. Smith on Tuesday. Smith, who was one of the Panthers’ last preseason cuts, said he’s been living in Charlotte and had a workout with New England last week.
Rivera said if Davis can’t play Sunday, A.J. Klein and Chase Blackburn would flank middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
“Thomas Davis (is a) leader on and off the field. So any time you see a guy like that go down, you feel for him,” Smith said. “But being in the linebacker corps, you’ve got to step up and there’s got to be a next-man-up mentality.”
Injury update: Receiver Jerricho Cotchery returned to practice as a full participant after he missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.
Along with Davis, Stewart and Whittaker, safety Roman Harper (knee), cornerback Charles Godfrey (ankle) and tackle Garry Williams (back) also did not participate in practice.
Quotable Smith: In a nearly 15-minute teleconference with Charlotte media, Ravens receiver Steve Smith, a former Panthers star, had some funny and insightful quotes. Here’s a sampling:
• “No, I don’t think it’s any other game. I’ve just really been thinking about it today. I never really imagined that I would be in a different uniform. I never really thought that I would be playing against the Panthers and now I am.”
• “Me and Thomas (Davis) have talked several times. Thomas has sent me jokes, text jokes. We’ve talked. My wife and Thomas’ wife had lunch the other week back in Charlotte. My relationship with guys has not discontinued because of where I play.”
• “Luke (Kuechly) and TD are still there killing. If the crowd can get it right between A.J. (Klein) and Luke who’s out there …”
• “That (Ravens) attitude fits me. I was told to be myself so that’s what I’ve been, been myself. And I enjoy being myself. Everybody else is taken so I’ve just got to be myself. I enjoy being myself. I’m comfortable being in my skin. I am the person that God made me.”
• “Do I miss playing? Thirteen years? I miss everything about Carolina. I miss my home. I miss my friends. Guys that I have grown with and they have grown, of course. But I also understand that it’s a business. And sometimes in business, you’ve got to temporarily go somewhere else. I’ve said it and I’ll continue to say it. I appreciate the opportunities and things that Mr. Richardson has given me.”
• “(Kelvin Benjamin) is a 6-foot-5 Cam Newton with dreads. They look very similar but he’s very athletic and catches the ball well. I think it doesn’t surprise me what he’s done thus far in his ability to catch the ball because he did that in college.”