Jonathan Stewart set to return
"Jonathan looked good and we'll do all the official stuff tomorrow,'' coach Ron Rivera said after Friday's practice.
Running back Armond Smith was waived to make room for Stewart on the 53-player roster.
The team's second all-time leading rusher will play at home on Sunday against NFC South rival Atlanta, his first game since he injured his ankle last November.
Stewart underwent offseason surgery on both ankles, but the right one continued to hurt enough during the preseason that the Panthers placed him on the PUP list. He missed the first seven games before returning to practice last Tuesday.
He practiced for the first time in full pads Wednesday and got rave reviews from teammates and Rivera.
"I feel ready,'' Stewart said Wednesday. "Today was a good step forward putting the pads on. It felt good going out there and hitting the field full speed with some contact and running plays with contact.
"It was fun. It was good to be back out there in the huddle and everything feels good right now."
DeAngelo Williams, 10th in the league in rushing with 477 yards, will remain the starter. Williams practiced Friday after missing the past two days rehabbing a bruised quadriceps.
The biggest question mark is linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot), who practiced Friday after sitting out Thursday. Rivera said he will be a game-day decision.
Rivera said he'd like Stewart to get six to 10 carries against the Falcons (2-5) as a power inside runner coming in to spell Williams. He reiterated that the key will be not to force Stewart into the rotation for a team that has won three straight and four of its last five games to improve to 4-3.
"There's one thing we can't worry about is making sure everybody gets enough touches,'' he said. "What has to happen is when these guys get their opportunities they have to be quality touches. We have to put them in the best position so they can have success and have quality touches. And I know they all understand that.''
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