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Jonathan Stewart healthiest he's been since 2011

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is paid to be a major player in a three-man, tag-team backfield.


Around The League predicts the Week 1 starting lineups for all 32 teams, analyzing the potential impact of each rookie class.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
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» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
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NFC East
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NFC North
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NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
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» Cardinals | 49ers | Rams | Seahawks

However, Stewart hasn't been healthy enough to be tagged in much the past two seasons.

In two years, Stewart has appeared in just 17 games and earned 516 yards. The 27-year-old injured both his right and left ankles in 2012. Those injuries kept him out for the start of the 2013 season. After returning for a month, he tore his MCL and was shelved again.

During OTAs this week, Stewart said he is the healthiest he's been since before the 2011 season, when he averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

"The past is the past and you can't really look at what last year was for me, or the year before," Stewart said of his injuries, per The Charlotte Observer. "You can only take what you've learned and you can only make the best out of what's to come.

"As far as injuries last year, I had them," Stewart added. "Hopefully the things I'm doing now allow me to put myself in position to not get injured."

Both Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams and Stewart rank in the top 10 in average running back salary in 2014, per spotrac.com. Given Stewart's uncuttable salary (it would cost the Panthers more than $13 million to cut him this year and more than $5 million next year in dead money) his "injury-prone" label has left fans lamenting.

With a wide receiving corps that sits in the NFL's cellar, coach Ron Rivera plans to rely heavily on his running game of Stewart, Williams and Mike Tolbert.

Rivera said the team doesn't need Stewart to be a 1,000-yard back but just to carry his weight in the backfield.

Coming off a playoff season, a dim-looking Panthers offense must get a surge from Stewart to have any chance at repeating as NFC South champs.

In the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the heroes debate the Super Bowl windows of Brady and Manning.

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