Stewart back to lead Panthers

Jonathan Stewart has declared himself ready to return to the Carolina Panthers line-up for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The running back sustained a foot injury on December 13 against Atlanta but he returned to practice on Wednesday and is raring to get going again.

“I’m here at my team’s disposal,” Stewart told the Charlotte Observer. “Whatever it takes to get this W, whether it’s 20 [carries], whether it’s 10. Just how I’ve viewed it my whole time here: I’m just going to do my job.

“My whole thing was to get back for the playoffs [with] fresh legs and help my team.”

There have been suggestions in the media that Stewart may not be at his sharpest and it’s too soon to return for such a high-pressure game.

However, coach Ron Rivera says that he has no concerns at all over Stewart’s ability to step back into the side.

“People say, ‘Oh the layoff is going to hurt him.’ I say no not really, because if you go back to what happened last year, Jonathan was off for six weeks, and when we started our run he was our starting tailback and finished the season for us.

“So we feel pretty comfortable and confident having him back on the football field.”

Meanwhile, quarterback Cam Newton says Stewart’s contribution cannot possibly be understated: “[He means] pretty much everything [to us].

“We haven’t had him the past couple of weeks and with the playoffs right now approaching us, it’s great to have Stewart back.”