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Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Steve Smith on schedule to return

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who missed Sunday's 21-20 victory over Atlanta with a sprained knee, did not participate in Wednesday's light practice and will be held out all week.

Running back Jonathan Stewart, who has missed the past three games with a knee injury, did participate.

Both are expected to play when the Panthers (12-4) play host to Philadelphia, Green Bay or San Francisco in a Jan. 12 playoff game.

Coach Ron Rivera is confident tight end Ben Hartsock (knee), defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf) and "all of our guys'' will be ready for the playoffs.

Smith is the most significant. The passing game struggled without him at Atlanta as wide receivers had only four catches for 22 yards.

Earning a first-round bye was key. Smith said he likely could not have played this weekend.

"Steve is right on schedule,'' Rivera said. "He's doing a great job. He's feeling better every day, at least that's what he's telling me. You know Steve. He's going to do everything he can.

"I really think Steve will be where he needs to be when it's time.''