There was a time this summer when Jonathan Stewart wasn’t entirely sure where his future in football was.
He was hoping it was with the Carolina Panthers, but when the team acquired Mike Tolbert from the San Diego Chargers, rumors swirled that Stewart might be on his way out.
But Stewart’s worries were quashed when the Panthers recently signed the fifth-year back out of Oregon to a five-year extension.
The extension also assured fans that Stewart and tailback DeAngelo Williams — aka “Double Trouble” and “Smash and Dash” — will remain a viable one-two punch for some time.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney has described Stewart as a “perfect fit” for the organization, and he’s right in every sense.
Stewart is not only a fine back — he’s run for 3,500 yards and scored 26 touchdowns while also catching 81 passes in his career – but he’s also a terrific locker room presence and someone who has given back to the Charlotte community and his hometown, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Williams and Stewart would each generate more individual production if he was the featured back for a team, but each recognizes playing as a tandem will better help the Panthers win. And they both want to win so badly they have accepted the dimensions of their relationship, which has grown quite strong off the field.
Stewart’s decision to re-sign signifies an example of the commitment many of the players on the roster have to achieving the stated goals of the franchise. Stewart could have declined and gone elsewhere after his contract expired, but he didn’t. And now Carolina has Stewart, Williams and Tolbert to help ease Cam Newton’s load.
A case of the Mondays
Rivera told media members at practice Monday that his expectations for the young players were quite high going into Saturday night’s 26-13 preseason game loss to the Houston Texans. In fact, he believes the expectations might have been too high and “unfair to those guys.”
The second-year coach also said the moment might have been “too big,” and, as a result, some of the newcomers were “overwhelmed.”
Among the issues, according to Rivera: The defense didn’t stretch enough in the second half; tackling was an issue, though he said it was better in Monday’s practice; and the offense struggled to pick up blitzes, which also was addressed in Monday’s practice.
Rivera said if the Panthers don’t learn from their mistakes, the game was a waste, but he believes the players learned a great deal.
‘Hard Knocks’ and the Panthers
The Miami Dolphins and the annual circus that is HBO’s “Hard Knocks” will come to Bank of America Stadium this weekend. The series has become quite popular over the past decade and offers forums for players to gain added national notoriety.
Rivera was asked after Monday’s practice if he would be interested in having the HBO cameras around his team during training camp.
“Nope,” he deadpanned. “I don’t think it suits us right now, and we just won’t worry about that.”
Pressed a bit more, the coach said, “It just wouldn’t suit us . . . It’s just something that I’d rather not have to go through. I don’t like to be mic’d, I really don’t because of what you say, and once you say it, you can’t take it back.”
All NFL coaches are asked to wear microphones a few times a season, so how often did Rivera wear them last season?
“I’d say too much . . . ” he replied. “It’s part of it, you’ve got to be, it’s part of it. But it’s hard, because I’d rather not think about what I say, I’d rather think about the game or practice that is going on.”