Jonathan Stewart injury: Panthers RB hopeful he'll be back this season

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers oft-injured running back is hoping he can return from a torn MCL and play again this season.

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart remains hopeful he'll play again in 2013, despite partially tearing his MCL in a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football.

Stewart remains optimistic, according to a report from Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, but admits he doesn't have a lot of knowledge of knee injuries:

"Who knows? Some say 2-4 weeks, some say 4-6 weeks," Stewart said. "You Google it and it says 4-6 weeks. I don't know."

Head coach Ron Rivera wouldn't rule out Stewart's return before the end of the season when he announced the injury on Monday. The sixth-year running back has been plagued by injuries since being drafted in 2008 and has missed significant time in the last two seasons.

Stewart underwent off-season ankle surgery to clean up scar tissue and correct a series of issues he carried since playing at Oregon. He was placed on the PUP list before being added to the Panthers' active roster in early November. Stewart appeared in six games, running for 180 yards before being injured.

Rivera is impressed by the attitude of the veteran running back, and how he's staying upbeat despite the diagnosis:

"I have talked to him a couple times - yesterday and today - and both times, I love Jonathan's attitude about it," Rivera said. "I'm pretty optimistic about it just what I've heard from him."

The Panthers will continue to lean on starting running back DeAngelo Williams, with fullback Mike Tolbert taking over Stewart's role as the power and short-yardage back. There's also a chance late-round rookie Kenjon Barner could see additional reps, though he's appeared in just five games this season.

Carolina currently hold a wild card spot in the NFC and face the New York Jets on Sunday.

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