Stewart could miss only one game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The original prognosis for Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was a possible return for the Dec. 29 regular-season finale at Atlanta.

Coach Ron Rivera is optimistic Stewart, who suffered a slight MCL tear in his right knee during the third quarter of Sunday night's 31-13 loss at New Orleans, might return a week earlier against the Saints.

That's because Stewart was "pretty optimistic" when Rivera asked how his rehabilitation was going.

"I was fired up because he gave me a pretty positive response," Rivera said on Friday.

Stewart, who spent the first seven games on the physically unable to perform list recovering from offseason ankle surgery, isn't letting the injury get him down.

"It's like anything in life, you've got to deal with it," he said. "I can't tell you really what to expect. You can look at other guys and, based off that, hope. All I know is I've just got to get back.

"Whenever that is, I don't know."

Stewart will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.