<
>

Jonathan Stewart, most of injured Panthers should be ready

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera is optimistic that running back Jonathan Stewart, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and safety Kurt Coleman will be ready for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks,

All three missed the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay with injuries. Stewart missed the final four games with a sprained foot.

Rivera expects all three to be on the practice field on Wednesday and, barring a setback, ready for the 1:05 p.m. kick against the Seahawks.

Rivera said the biggest concern injury-wise is backup running back Fozzy Whittaker, who missed the last game with a sprained ankle. He doesn’t expect Whittaker to practice on Wednesday.

That shouldn’t be a major concern because of the effectiveness rookie Cameron Artis-Payne played with down the stretch.

The Panthers have been careful with Stewart the past month to make sure he was ready for the playoffs. He led Carolina in rushing with 989 yards.

Ginn, who led all Carolina wide receivers with 10 touchdown catches, suffered a knee injury in the next-to-last game against Atlanta. His ability to get deep with his speed has been huge in Carolina leading the NFL in scoring (31.2 ppg.) this season.

“With Teddy it’s one of those things where he’ll build up to it and see how feels,’’ Rivera said. “He’s a sprinter. He’s a runner. As he starts going again we’ve got to be smart and judicious and get him to the point he’s confident and comfortable with it and get him rolling.’’

Coleman sprained his foot against the Falcons and was rested in the finale. He was confident on Monday that he would be ready for Seattle.

Rivera is confident Coleman, Stewart and Ginn will be ready.

“For the most part, I am,’’ he said. “But you know me, I’m optimistic.’’