The Carolina Panthers will go without the help of running back Jonathan Stewart for the first six weeks of the season.
The team has chosen to place Stewart on the regular-season physically unable to perform list after a doctor weighed in negatively on the back's surgically repaired right ankle Tuesday, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported. The Pantherslater confirmed the move.
Stewart won't be eligible to play until Oct. 20, when the St. Louis Rams visit the Panthersin Week 7.
Coach Ron Rivera hinted earlier this month that Stewart was on target to play in the opener, but the oft-injured runner -- who played in just nine games last season -- has been limited to riding a stationary bike this summer. Stewart has been wholly unreliable since signing a six-year, $37.811 million contract last August.
Stewart is scheduled to earn a $9 million option bonus in 2014, so it's possible this could be his final ride with the Panthers.
Until Stewart returns, Carolina's ground game -- which finished ninth in the NFL last season -- will center around DeAngelo Williams, rookie Kenjon Barner and the elusive Cam Newton. It's a major loss for the Panthers, who have enough talent to challenge for the NFC South but not enough depth on offense to be taken seriously.