The last time Jonathan Stewart played in Seattle, he ran for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, he was playing for the Oregon Ducks, who shredded a hapless Huskies defense for 661 yards of total offense, including a school record 465 yards rushing.
Now the Lacey native returns to Seattle under vastly different circumstances with the Carolina Panthers. The team is 1-10 and Stewart missed two games with a concussion. He's rushed for just 306 yards on 81 carries this season.
With rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen learning on the fly, teams have been and will continue to load up the box and stop the run game first and force Clausen to beat them.
Here's the transcript from our conference call with Stewart
(On how much he is looking forward to playing this weekend) “It should be pretty exciting. I mean I’m going back to my home state. Being able to experience that type of atmosphere, you know growing up watching Seattle play and what not. It should be a pretty cool experience just to, you know, I guess ‘live the dream’ experience. But it’s all part of the job.”
(On if he has been in Qwest Field before) “I watched a game once in Qwest and that was a high school football game.”
(On if he remembers who was playing in that high school football game) “Bellevue and De La Salle.”
(On how this trip back to Seattle will be different with an NFL team, as opposed to playing in Seattle versus the University of Washington while with Oregon) “This is what college football players look forward to – the opportunity to play professional football. When you add going to your home state where you have friends, and you have family friends, and just people that you grew up with watching you play high school football, elementary school (football) – being able to have that experience of them knowing that you’re in town and you’re playing in the home town. It’s kind of like a homecoming experience, but at the same time going in, of course, it’s my job now. You kind of just take that approach professionally.”
(On how many tickets he has been asked to get for this Sunday’s game) “A lot. Of course all my close friends and family members – well, pretty much family members, but not really family members [laughter] – that are close will be getting tickets and stuff like that. And I know who they are. So it wasn’t really that hard of a decision getting tickets together. Then again there are a lot of people that actually support me and they even went out and got tickets themselves. I think that’s just kind of like the type of people that I’m around – just kind of supporting me and wanting to see me, and just want the best for me.”
(On how many tickets he actually had to get) “Just 12.”
(On how hard it was to sit out two games with a concussion) “Yeah, it was real hard. Especially that game (where I got hurt) our running game was getting going, and then I get taken out that way. It doesn’t make it any better that our season is not going as well as we had hoped it to go. So just sitting back and not being able to do anything because of the type of injury I have, you know just got to rest, and time will only heal concussions. But just kind of being stationary the whole time and just having to sit back and watch was kind of hard. But I got through it and it happened for a reason. This is where I am today.”
(On what he thinks the biggest difference in the running game has been over the last three weeks) “I just think we’re becoming more finely tuned on our assignments as a whole offensive group. People are getting confidence in what we used to have and now what we are as a team. You know when you have a young team – and I’m not blaming anything on being young – but you sometimes forget your identity. I think the confidence that we have as an offensive group – you know we have receivers that are very talented, we’ve got a quarterback that’s talented, we’ve got offensive lineman that are talented, and then the running back crew. You just got to get confidence in that and remember who you are.”
(On what he thinks the challenge will be for Jimmy Claussen this weekend at a noisy Qwest Field) “Yeah, I was going to say the noise would probably be something hard. But we’re professionals and you’ve got to take that approach as a professional and figure out a way to adapt and overcome.”
(On what coach Fox’s message has been to the players as the losses have come) “Just to keep fighting. We’re not a team that just gives up or lies down, and neither is he. So really just to keep fighting and to play the game for what you’ve played for your whole life – the passion that you have. I think that’s what we display every week.”