Carolina Panthers' Jonathan Stewart (28) dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Mike McCarn
December 13, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said starting cornerback Bene Benwikere is likely out for the season after breaking his left leg in the fourth quarter of a 38-0 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

However, Rivera offered good news on tight end Greg Olsen and running back Jonathan Stewart, both of whom left with injuries in the first half. Rivera said both players are fine and could have returned, but he elected to keep them out with the Panthers holding a commanding lead.

Carolina led 28-0 at halftime.

Olsen injured his left knee and Stewart his left ankle, the team said. Neither appeared to be seriously injured and both were standing on the sideline in uniform in the third quarter joking with teammates.

Benwikere, who has been starting for the injured Charles Tillman, was carted off the field after a collision with wide receiver Julio Jones. It is a potentially costly injury for the unbeaten Panthers because Benwikere is normally their nickel cornerback when Tillman is healthy.

Tillman has missed the last four games but could return next week against the New York Giants.

The Panthers are getting thin at cornerback, recently signing veteran Cortland Finnegan. Rivera said the Panthers may look to the practice squad to fill Benwikere's spot.

Fozzy Whittaker replaced Stewart at running back, while Ed Dickson worked at Olsen's spot. Both scored as the Panthers improved to 13-0.

Olsen's injury looked scary at first. His left knee twisted awkwardly while he was trying to catch a pass in the end zone near the end of the first half, and quarterback Cam Newton grabbed his own helmet in concern when he saw Olsen on the ground.

However, Olsen walked off the field under his own power.

Newton left for one play late in the second quarter after hitting his funny bone on his own helmet, Rivera said.


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