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Mike Tolbert out; Jonathan Stewart has severe sprain

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Coach Ron Rivera is optimistic that DeAngelo Williams will return from a hamstring injury to play versus the Baltimore Ravens this week, but the Carolina Panthers' backfield woes aren't going away.

Rivera revealed Monday, via The Associated Press, that Jonathan Stewart will be held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday with a severely sprained knee. He will be reassessed on Friday.

Mike Tolbert, sporting crutches and a knee brace, will miss Sunday's game with a hairline fracture in his right leg. The fullback is week to week, per Rivera.

Having already signed tailback Darrin Reaves from the practice squad over the weekend, the Panthers will have to evaluate whether to add more depth this week.

Buried by an offensive line that has yet to open clear lanes, Carolina's ground attack ranks 29th in the league, averaging just 72.3 yards per game. They failed to take advantage of a Steelers defense that was among the league's most generous entering Week 3.

The backfield mess is especially disconcerting because the running game did the heavy lifting on offense last year, clearing 100 yards in 14 of 16 regular-season games.

UPDATE: The Panthers on Tuesday announced they have placed Tolbert on the injured reserve-designated to return list. Tolbert is eligible to return in Week 13.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps all of the Week 3 action and picks the top team in the AFC.

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