UPDATE: Sunday, September 16 at 11:43 a.m. ET
Jonathan Stewart is officially active vs. Saints, according to ESPN's Staff.
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UPDATE: Sunday, September 16 at 8:45 a.m. ET by Adam Wells
The news appears to be very good surrounding Stewart's status for this week's game against New Orleans.
According to Stacey Dales of the NFL Network (via Rotoworld), Stewart is expected to be in action on Sunday afternoon.
Dales reports that Stewart will test the ankle in pregame warm-ups as Carolina coaches look on and a final decision will be made then, but the running back is fully expected to suit up.
The Panthers showed last week how much they need that two-headed monster in the backfield to keep their running game going. Getting Stewart back will be a huge boost to an offense that has a lot of potential.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, September 12 at 2:30 p.m. ET by Adam Wels
In what can only be described as good news to the Panthers who struggled mightily running the ball against Tampa Bay in Week 1, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported that Stewart was back on the practice field.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart returns to practice after missing 2-plus weeks w sprained ankle. Stewart was limited but says he's progressing.— Joe Person (@josephperson) September 12, 2012
Meanwhile, Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is very encouraged by what he has seen from Stewart thus far.
Ron Rivera said #Panthers will have RB Jonathan Stewart back this week. Said he looked good in practice and is a big part of what they do.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) September 12, 2012
Given how dreadful the Panthers running game looked against a Buccaneers defense that has had problems with the run in the past, there has to be some sense of urgency to get Stewart back on track.
They need some kind of boost this weekend as they play a New Orleans team that is out for blood following last week's embarrassing performance against Washington.
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Carolina struggled immensely without Stewart in Week 1 on the road in Tampa. The Panthers rushed for 10 total yards on 13 rushes on Sunday.
He’s getting his treatment. We’ll see how he is. We’d like to get him on the field as soon as we can. He’s a big part of what we want to do as an offense. Without him, obviously we struggled.
There is no denying that Stewart is a vital player in the Panthers' offense as he is a gifted runner and an extremely talented receiver out of the backfield.
Stewart averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2011, and racked up more than 1,100 total yards and five touchdowns.
Despite his injury concerns, though, Stewart still boasts huge fantasy value. His aforementioned versatility in both the running and passing game make him a hot commodity.
He isn't a touchdown machine, but he is a lock to get plenty of touches week in and week out. With the Panthers' rushing attack already off to a poor start in 2012, look for Stewart to eventually jump start Carolina's ground game.
If and when he does, fantasy owners with the fifth-year RB on their roster will be glad they held on to him.
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