Stewart played in just nine games last season, and there's no telling when he'll be recovered enough to play football in 2013. Panthers coach Ron Rivera admitted Tuesday that Stewart might start the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would knock the running back out of the first six games of the season. Stewart is recovering from ankle surgeries.
"At this point, anything is an option," Rivera said, via The Associated Press. "What you're hoping is you can get him on the football field, and we'll see once the doctor gets a chance to look at him."
That's a big change in tone from last week, when Rivera believed Stewart was on track to play in Week 1. The Panthers will rely heavily on DeAngelo Williams and possibly rookie Kenjon Barner early in the season.
Stewart is due a $9 million option bonus next season. It's quite possible that he will get cut after the year, while Williams remains. (DeAngelo signed a reduced deal to stay this year.)
Injury issues also are wreaking havoc with the team's No. 3 receiver battle. Armanti Edwards, Domenik Hixon and Joe Adams all are expected to miss Thursday's preseason game. It appears Edwards, Ted Ginn and David Gettis are the top candidates for the role.