Carolina Panthers: RB Jonathan Stewart Will Not Play Sunday Against Tampa Bay

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterSeptember 9, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 26:  Jonathan Stewart #28 of the Carolina Panthers plays against the New York Jets during their preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 26, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

No more guessing about running back Jonathan Stewart’s status for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay. When Carolina takes the field against the Buccaneers, one half of the Panthers’ running back duo will not be playing.

Stewart broke the news via social media Sunday morning.

On both facebook and Twitter Stewart posted:

Stewart was part of the dynamic Carolina backfield that helped the Panthers rank third in the NFL last season in rushing. Stewart rushed for 761 yards while DeAngelo Williams added 836 and quarterback Cam Newton 706.

But Stewart only played in two preseason games this year, and averaged only 2.5 yards per carry on 13 carries.

He was listed as questionable on Carolina’s Friday injury report, but Stewart did not practice all week because of an ankle sprain.

Williams will carry the brunt of the load for the Panthers Sunday. Instead of Stewart spelling him on third downs, watch for new fullback Mike Tolbert to step in.

Tolbert signed a four-year, $10 million contract with Carolina as a free agent in the offseason. He caught 54 passes out of the backfield and rushed for 490 yards for the San Diego Chargers in 2011.

Losing Stewart for the game hurts, but Williams, Tolbert and Newton should still be able to flourish against Tampa Bay’s run defense that ranked last in the league in 2011 and has allowed three teams during the preseason to put up 160 or more yards in a game and two to push past 200 yards on the ground.