CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart will miss the first six weeks of the season while he recovers from any ankle injury.
Coach Ron Rivera said after practice Tuesday that Stewart was placed on the physically unable to perform list.
The team also put guard Edmund Kugbila, the team's fourth-round draft pick, on injured reserve with a knee injury and waived injured defensive tackle Frank Kearse and wide receiver Joe Adams, Carolina's fourth-round pick in 2012. Adams and Kearse will go back on injured reserve if they clear waivers.
NFL rules stipulate Stewart can't practice or play for six weeks.
Since the Panthers have a bye in week four, Stewart is eligible to play Oct. 20 against the St. Louis Rams, which would be Week 7 on the NFL calendar but would be Carolina's sixth game of the season.
"I'm just taking it day by day and trying to be there for my teammates and bring as much positive energy as I can," Stewart said. "We have a long season ahead of us and I plan to be back in week six."
Rivera is "very optimistic" Stewart could make it back for St. Louis game.
"Some real good things have happened but they aren't going to happen soon enough," Rivera said, adding doctors now believe the right ankle will take longer to heal. Rivera classified the injury as a sprain. Stewart hasn't practiced since offseason surgery on both ankles.
The decision likely means more playing time for DeAngelo Williams, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, and opens a roster spot for young running backs in Tauren Poole and Armond Smith. Carolina also drafted Kenjon Barner from Oregon in the sixth round and he's expected to contribute as a scat back.
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