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                     === Panthers' Stewart has torn MCL ===
 
 Charlotte,  NC  (SportsNetwork.com) -  Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan
 Stewart was diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament tear in his right knee
 Monday,  an  injury that could  sideline him for  the remainder of the regular
 season.
 
 Stewart exited Sunday's 31-13 loss at NFC South-rival New Orleans in the third
 quarter after taking a shot to the knee from Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis at
 the  end of a  catch. The Panthers have already ruled the six-year veteran out
 for  this weekend's  game against the New York Jets and he'll almost certainly
 miss the following week as well, though the team is hopeful he'll be available
 for its Week 17 matchup at Atlanta on Dec. 29.
 
 "We'll  get a better feel for it in the next 10 days," Panthers head coach Ron
 Rivera  said on Monday. "It wasn't the ACL -- that much I know, which is huge.
 Very happy for Jonathan that there is a bit of good news."
 
 The  Panthers  are deep  at the  running back  position, with starter DeAngelo
 Williams  having  produced a  pair of  1,000-yard seasons  over his career and
 fullback  Mike Tolbert capable of contributing as well. Those two received the
 majority  of the  backfield work with Stewart sidelined for the season's first
 seven games while recovering from surgeries on each of his ankles.
 
 Since  being  activated from  the physically  unable to  perform list in early
 November,  Stewart  had rushed for 180  yards on 48 carries while adding seven
 receptions totaling 44 yards.
 
 Carolina also could opt to hold out Stewart until the playoffs if it's able to
 reach  the postseason.  The Panthers are currently tied with San Francisco for
 the  two wild card  spots in the NFC, with Arizona one game back with three to
 play.
 
 
 
 12/09 16:29:28 ET