The Carolina Panthers appear to have used their bye week to get healthy as they prepare to host the Seahawks in a divisional playoff game Sunday.
As the Seattle Seahawks found out the last two years, one big benefit of being the No. 1 seed is getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs and then home games the rest of the way, all of which allows a chance to be rested and healthy for the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers, who have the No. 1 seed this year, had a few key injuries at the end of the season but appear to be just about at full strength as they prepare for Sunday’s game against Seattle.
“Probably the biggest thing obviously is getting a chance to rest some guys, getting some guys healthier,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said in a conference call with Seattle reporters following the team’s practice Wednesday. “That’s always the benefit.”
Maybe the most notable injury was that of running back Jonathan Stewart, the team’s leading rusher with 949 yards this season but who missed the last three games with a foot injury.
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Stewart practiced on Wednesday and Rivera said the former Timberline High star will be good to go against the Seahawks.
“He’s doing well,” Rivera said. “He had a good day of practice today. Ran really hard, ran well with the football, so feel pretty comfortable with him back out there.”
Rivera said he is not worried about Stewart showing any rust noting that he missed significant time last season, as well, and then came back to play well in the post-season.
Receiver Ted Ginn also missed the team’s last game with a knee injury but he also practiced today.
“Teddy’s fine,” Rivera said of Ginn, who had 44 receptions for 739 yards this season for the Panthers. “Teddy looked good today running around did some nice things.
Safety Kurt Coleman, who also sat out the final game, was also back today.
“We are feeling real comfortable about getting our guys back,” Rivera said.
The Panthers listed everyone as fully participating in practice other than backup running back Fozzy Whittaker.
Like the Seahawks, though, the Panthers have lost a few players who are out for the year since having played Seattle on Oct. 18. Notably, Carolina has lost cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere to season-ending injury since playing Seattle. Veterans Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan have been added since then and are now filling starting and nickelback roles for the Panthers.