Carolina Panthers

Injury to hand of Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams could open door for Jonathan Stewart

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams fractured a bone in his right hand in Sunday’s 31-13 loss to Minnesota, and his availability is day-to-day.

It’s yet another injury for Williams this season, who has dealt with hamstring and ankle injuries, and it opens the door for Carolina to use Jonathan Stewart more in the backfield.

The injury occurred when Minnesota linebacker Jasper Brinkley’s helmet hit Williams hand on a second-quarter rush for 3 yards. Williams motioned to sideline for a substitute and did not return to the game.

X rays showed the fracture to be in the hand at the base of the middle finger. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Williams could play with the injury, but the swelling has to go down. He said Williams could see a hand specialist this week.

But after the game and again Monday, Rivera indicated that if Williams is healthy, he’ll be the starter. The franchise’s all-time leading rusher, Williams has not been as effective on the ground as Stewart.

Stewart rushed 12 times for 75 yards against the Vikings, good for a 7.1-yards-per-carry clip that was Carolina’s best all season.

A team source told the Observer recently that when Stewart was named the starter in 2012, he didn’t take ownership of the role. The coaching staff saw that Stewart runs better when he feeds off Williams, the source said, and believed Williams is more suited for the starting role.

Williams is on pace for the second least-productive season of his career. He has 219 rushing yards on 63 carries and no touchdowns. Only 2010, in which he played six games before being sidelined with a foot injury, was worse.

Should Williams be unavailable for this week’s game at New Orleans, he would be missing out on one of his favorite places to play. Williams has rushed for 401 yards on 54 carries – 7.4 yards per carry – in the past four years at the Superdome against the Saints.

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