Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart appears safe from being released – at least for now.

Coach Ron Rivera mentioned Stewart by name last week on ESPN’s NFL Insiders when talking about ways to take the running load off quarterback Cam Newton during the 2017 season.

“The biggest thing, our realization is that our primary runner cannot be our quarterback," Rivera said. “We’re going to look to do a little more backfield sets in terms of two backs and 12 personnel with the extra tight end as the lead blocker.

“We’ve got to get guys like Jonathan Stewart rolling. We’ve got to put it in our backs’ hands and get the ball to our playmakers.”

It seems unlikely Rivera would have mentioned Stewart by name if there were plans to release him as the Panthers did all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams after the 2014 season.

Williams was considered somewhat of a wild card in terms of the locker room culture Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman were trying to build.

Stewart is not.

Stewart will turn 30 in March, and that typically is a time running backs start to see a sharp decline in production. He also is scheduled to count $8,250,000 against the salary cap this season, and by releasing him with a post-June 1 designation the Panthers could clear $6.25 million from the salary cap.