Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams will play for the first time in a month Thursday against New Orleans, coach Ron Rivera said Monday.
Rivera said the running back has “signified that he is ready to roll,” and Williams attended walkthrough practice Monday afternoon in preparation for the short turnaround this week.
Williams started in Carolina’s opener at Tampa Bay, but he sat out against Detroit and Pittsburgh with a hamstring injury. He returned in Week 4 at Baltimore but left after suffering a high ankle sprain that has kept him inactive the past four games.
“I think it’ll be a nice boost because when he and Jonathan (Stewart) get rolling doing the things they’ll do, that’ll be nice for us,” Rivera said. “It’ll be a nice shot in the arm.”
Stewart led the Panthers in Sunday’s 13-9 loss to Seattle with 79 rushing yards on 16 carries. He ran hard despite Caroliona’s offensive line troubles, and he forced five missed tackles according to Pro Football Focus.
Stewart said he was glad to get the so-called “Double Trouble” tandem back together.
“He’s on schedule, as far as I know, and he’ll be back in action,” Stewart said of Williams.
Williams’ addition to the backfield will mean Carolina’s rushing attack is almost at full strength. Fullback Mike Tolbert is designated to return from short-term injured reserve Nov. 30 at Minnesota.
Williams also will help take the load off Stewart, who has been the workhorse in the backfield along with quarterback Cam Newton. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Newton’s 29 combined rushes against Cincinnati and Seattle were “probably high.”
Shula said he expects that number to go down with Williams back.
Line help: Carolina’s offensive line suffered through one of its worst games of the season against the Seahawks, and there wasn’t great news the day after, either.
Rivera expressed concern for the health of his two starting tackles after Byron Bell struggled with elbow and knee injuries and Nate Chandler missed nearly half of the game with a groin injury.
Rivera said an injured Bell was Carolina’s best option at left tackle Sunday. Undrafted rookie David Foucault was the only other tackle on the roster.
Rivera admitted the team could look for outside help at tackle, but a short week makes that difficult.
“We’ve got to talk about it because of the situation they’re in right now,” Rivera said. “We’ll look at some things and what our options are. It is a short week, but we’ve got to do something.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Bell and Chandler are two of the worst tackles in football. Bell ranks 70th of 72, and Chandler is 64th.
No sleep til Thursday: Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott went home and had dinner Sunday night after the loss, spent two hours with his family, then he came back to the stadium to begin working on the Saints.
While New Orleans was on offense during Sunday night’s win against the Packers, McDermott would watch the Saints. When Green Bay had the ball, he’d go back to film study.
He didn’t sleep much, and coaches for both teams won’t get a lot of rest this week as the Panthers and Saints take their turn on Thursday night duty.
Every team has to play a Thursday night game, and the home team has fared well this season, winning five of the seven games.
But New Orleans is a different animal in primetime. The Saints have a 23-10 record in prime-time games since 2006, when Sean Payton took over as coach. The Panthers are 6-10 since 2006 and 9-9 all-time in home prime-time games.
The Thursday game will give the Panthers 11 days before their next contest in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football.
“Everybody’s got to play one. How you feel about it really doesn’t matter,” Rivera said. “It’s getting ready to play the game. On the other side, it’s a mini break. We don’t play for 11 days, so that might not be a bad thing for us. I was kind of hoping to have a bye right now, but we don’t have a bye for three more weeks. This mini bye will be good for us.”
The Panthers started installing their game plan Monday during meetings and walk-through practice.
“The biggest thing for us is getting the players acclimated to the new opponent and them getting their rest,” McDermott said. “You can have a great scheme and plan, but if the players are tired, we need them to get their rest. That means mentally and physically.”
Injury report: The Panthers were required to post an injury report with their best estimate on the status of injured players had a practice been held. They listed eight players as out: Bell, guards Amini Silatolu (calf) and Trai Turner (knee), cornerback Bené Benwikere (ankle), linebacker Chase Blackburn (knee), wide receiver Philly Brown (concussion), safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) and running back Fozzy Whittaker (quad).
Strong safety Roman Harper, who was slow to get up after hitting Luke Willson on Seattle’s winning touchdown, said he wasn’t injured on the play. Harper said he needed a moment to collect himself, plus he was a little upset. The Panthers were charged a timeout because officials thought Harper was hurt.
“I just tried to give him everything I’ve got, which obviously wasn’t enough,” Harper said. “I was (mad), too. It kind of happens. It’s just part of the game, and part of my emotions. I was just trying to make a play.” Staff writer Joseph Person contributed this this article.