STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — While Panthers coach Ron Rivera is awaiting the results of an MRI on running back Jonathan Stewart’s right hamstring, Fozzy Whittaker is set to start for Carolina.
Rivera said the initial indications on Stewart are not good.
“If it’s a hamstring — and every indication is that it is — it’s going to be at least a week or two,” Rivera said. “We’ll see how severe.”
Stewart injured his hamstring in the first quarter of Carolina’s 47-26 win over San Francisco on Sunday.
Whittaker, who ran for 100 yards on 16 carries in the win, will start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Rivera said the team will activate Cameron Artis-Payne as a backup. He has been inactive the last two games for Carolina (1-1).
“I never want to see my own teammate, Jonathan Stewart, go down. I hope he heals up fast,” Whittaker said. “We always have the next man up mentality. When my number is called, I’m just trying to help produce and get the team a win.”
Prior to Sunday, Whittaker’s career-high was 41 yards rushing back, that coming back in 2014 against the Atlanta Falcons.
He’s been mostly used as a third-down back since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2012. He has nearly had as many yards receiving (279) as he has rushing (332) coming into the season.
At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, there is some question whether Whittaker will be able to handle the pounding that comes with being an every-down back in the league. Prior to Sunday he’d never carried the ball more than nine times in a game.
Whittaker said he was excited about his performance and the victory, but also a little upset at himself over a fumble in San Francisco territory that may have cost his team points.
“That’s something I need to correct,” Whittaker said. “Being able to protect the ball whenever we play other teams in the future, that can come back to bite us in the butt as San Francisco scored off of that. Being able to play and rush for that much because of the O-line doing a great job opening up holes down field and the wideouts doing a great job blocking. It just made it easy for me to run.”
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