A bad day quickly got worse for the Carolina Panthers, as RB DeAngelo Williams suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Williams was hurt on 7-yard run in the second quarter, and although he tried to return to the game, was eventually ruled out for the rest of the day and his status is now being described as "week to week" per media sources.
Williams, who rushed 11 times for 34 yards before the injury occured, was replaced by former practice squaders Darrin Reaves and Tauren Poole. The 31-year-old had already missed weeks 2 and 3 with a thigh problem, and with Jonathan Stewart (knee) out indefinitely, Mike Tolbert (leg) on short-term IR, and Fozzy Whittaker (quad) also dinged, the Panthers' backfield situation is in dire straits once again. With Williams missing, Carolina was only able to rush for 26 yards on 12 attempts via Reaves, while Poole fumbled on his lone attempt.
"I knew my team needed me, so nerves had to go out of the window. I had to step up and be a man and do whatever had to be done," Reaves said. "I just need to get my feet wet, learn the speed of the game and the feel of the game."
Stewart was a surprise participant at practice last Friday, so he may be closing in on a return sooner than expected after initially being handed a one-month recovery timetable. His return would provide an obvious boost to the Panthers, who were looking to establish the run after the Pittsburgh Steelers bottled them up in their week 3 loss. The team worked out former Cleveland Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya last week, and will likely take a look at other free agent backs in the days ahead. DeAngelo Williams is week-to-week with a sprained ankle.
As things stand now, Reaves may well be the featured back when the Panthers tangle with the Chicago Bears, who are coming off of a disappointing loss of their own to the Packers, next Sunday. Coach Ron Rivera did not elaborate on Williams' status after the game Sunday, but the nine-year veteran was spotted in a walking boot as he left the stadium, and the team has since expressed doubts over his status for next week. QB Cam Newton, who has dealt with injury problems of his own, is anxiously awaiting the return to health of all of his wounded teammates, with 12 regular season games remaining on the docket.
"We've got a great football team, but we've got a lot of guys that are injured," he said. "The optimism of it all is that I can't wait until we get those guys back."
A 28-point loss to a Ravens team which featured their former standout Steve Smith was made even worse for Carolina by yet another addition to the injury report. And the fact that the injury was sustained by another running back only capitulates things further for a Panthers team that has been plagued by ailments and inconsistencies on the field, much like their three other NFC South counterparts.
With both DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert out for the immediate future, all eyes will turn to Jonathan Stewart, though the 27-year-old is in no position to rush back from his injury. The Panthers have plenty of on-field issues to address, but getting their experienced, veteran running backs off of the treatment table and back into the huddle would be a nice starting point as they look to rebound from back-to-back ugly defeats.