Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin 'progressing' through concussion protocol

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kelvin Benjamin continues to progress through the concussion protocol, leaving the Carolina Panthers hopeful the rookie wide receiver will play in Sunday’s game at Green Bay.

Benjamin did not participate in Thursday’s practice, but was back on the field after being a no-show on Wednesday.

The 28th pick of the draft suffered the concussion on a second-quarter hit from Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He passed a sideline concussion test and finished the game, but complained of a headache when he arrived at the stadium on Monday.

“He continues in the protocol,’’ coach Ron Rivera said. “He did very well with the independent [doctor on Wednesday], and then today he did the next step with our guys and seemed to be doing very well.

“We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow. Hopefully, he passes. If he does, great.’’

Several players expressed optimism that Benjamin, whose 31 receptions leads Carolina wide receivers, would play. If not, Brenton Bersin and Philly Brown would replace him in the rotation.

“It would be considerable, in light of who he is for us,’’ Rivera said of what it would mean to lose Benjamin for a game. “I will say I really do believe the other guys have stepped up and played well.

“With the quarterback [Cam Newton] back playing the way he’s capable and being healthy, relatively healthy, I feel good about what we can do offensively.’’

Running back Jonathan Stewart practiced full for the second straight day after missing the past three games with a knee injury. Rivera remains optimistic that Stewart will start against Green Bay.

With Fozzy Whittaker (quad) and Darrin Reaves (calf) missing Thursday’s practice, Rivera said the rotation on Sunday would be Stewart, Chris Ogbonnaya and whoever is healthy.

“Looked very good and still very confident in him,’’ Rivera said of Stewart. “He had a really nice practice. He took an increased amount of reps, so we’re feeling pretty confident now.’’

Rivera remained in a “we’ll see’’ mode on cornerback Josh Norman, who missed the Cincinnati game with a concussion and has practiced on a limited basis this week.

Linebacker Chase Blackburn, who missed his second straight practice, said the knee he injured on Sunday is improving. Rivera expressed concern on Wednesday that Blackburn may miss a few games.

Left guard Amini Silatolu (calif) and nickel cornerback Bene’ Benwikere (ankle) are not expected to play.