Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has rushed for 240 yards on 32 carries in the past two games, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll start on Sunday against Tampa Bay if DeAngelo Williams returns from injury.
“We’ll see as we go forward,’’ coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. “He most certainly is part of that mix of guys that we have. He’s part of who we are as a football team."
Rivera was just as vague on whether Williams, Carolina’s all-time leading rusher who has missed seven games with injuries this season, is on schedule to return against Tampa Bay.
Williams, 31, fractured a bone in his right hand during a Nov. 30 loss at Minnesota.
“We’ll see,’’ Rivera said. “We’ll see how it is. This is going to be a day-by-day process with him. As the hand gets stronger and heals up, we’ll go forward?"
While it appears to everyone Stewart has earned the job and a bulk of the carries, it sounds like Rivera isn't ruling out going back to the dreaded committee if Williams plays. At this point in the week, there are way too many "we'll sees" in Rivera's statements, so it will likely take a few days or even come down to a game-time call to sort this all out. Carolina hosts the Bucs in Week 15.