Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned to practice Wednesday and having the day off on Tuesday, and he’s expected to start and get the majority of carries when the Panthers face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday in the wild-card playoff game.
There’s been discussion on how the Panthers would split the carries between the red-hot Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who’s recovering from a broken bone in his hand. Stewart didn’t seem concerned about that Wednesday.
“Whatever the offensive coordinator (decides) and whatever the plan is for the game, that’s how we run things,” Stewart said. “You just do your part and just worry about that.”
Stewart’s 486 rushing yards in the past five games were the second-most in the NFL behind the league’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. The Panthers’ 975 rushing yards since Week 13 leads the league, and they outpace second-place Seattle by 79 yards.
Williams had been a liability in pass protection with his right hand, but Rivera indicated there’s no concern with that this week. He said Williams is “ready to roll” this week.
Asked about the rhythm he’s been able to enjoy the past four weeks as the starter, Stewart said “the more you do things, the more comfortable you are.”
But he got philosophical when asked if he’d like for that continue.
“However that goes, that’s the way it’s going to go,” Stewart said.
Remembering his first: Joe Webb can’t recall with ease his first and only playoff start at quarterback.
“I remember it but I can’t go play for play,” Webb said. “Just the whole game I want to have back. It doesn’t matter what play because we lost. But that’s the past and I’m not worried about that.”
Webb started for the Vikings in a 2012 wild-card game at Green Bay. He didn’t know until the team arrived in Green Bay that he would start in place of the injured Christian Ponder.
Webb went 11-for-30 for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the 24-10 loss to the Packers.
It was Webb’s first career start at quarterback, but it’s not entirely different from what Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley could expect this week. Lindley, who’s started the past two games for Arizona, will likely be the starter this week against the Panthers after Drew Stanton (knee) did not practice again Wednesday.
“I’ve been in his shoes before so I kind of know what he’s going through,” Webb said, “but I’m not on their side.”
Roman Times: With a six tackle performance topped by a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown, Panthers safety Roman Harper earned the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Harper, a nine-year veteran, won the award for the third time in his career and his first with the Panthers. His interception and return for a touchdown gave the Panthers a 17-3 late in the second quarter en route to the victory in the win-and-in game against Atlanta.
Harper is the second Panther to win the award this year after Cam Newton won the Offensive Player of the Week award following his Week 14 performance against the Saints. He’s the first defensive player to win the award since defensive end Greg Hardy won it in Week 17 of last season against Atlanta.
Injury update: Backup quarterback Derek Anderson missed practice for a second day with the flu, and he wasn’t even at the team facilities on Wednesday.
“As soon as he showed up and wasn’t feeling well and we determined it was flu-like symptoms, we sent him to the doctor,” Rivera said.
“He was able to keep soup down this morning. We didn’t want to have him around the guys but he said he’s feeling a lot better and we expect him back (Thursday).”
Joe Webb took all the second-team reps at practice Wednesday.
Guard Fernando Velasco also missed practice to deal with a family issue.
Safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) was limited. Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) was a full participant at practice along with DeAngelo Williams.
Extra points: The Cardinals returned “a couple hundred” tickets for the playoff game, Panthers chief revenue officer Phil Youtsey said Wednesday afternoon. The Panthers placed the tickets, mostly located in the upper deck, on the team’s Ticketmaster site at face value. ... The Panthers signed guard Tyronne Green to a futures contract. The former 2009 fourth-round pick out of Auburn was most recently on the Cowboys’ injured reserve. By signing the contract, Green will join the team at the start of the new league year in March.