Football / Sports

Panthers coach Ron Rivera confident Cam Newton will play in opener

Since learning their starting quarterback cracked a rib, the Carolina Panthers' plan has been to let Cam Newton rest this week and have him start Sept. 7 against Tampa Bay in the regular-season opener.

Tuesday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera seemed convinced the plan will hold true.

"I'm pretty confident on it, and we'll see as he progresses," Rivera said. "The true evaluation will come in about a week. We're looking at this Saturday getting a good feel on where and how he is."

Newton suffered a hairline fracture to his rib Friday night against the New England Patriots. He continued to play, but an MRI Sunday revealed the crack and he has been held out of practice since.

Each of the past three days, Newton has walked onto the practice field shortly after the start of practice with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. Newton was extremely stiff walking on Sunday, but that stiffness seems to dissipate with each passing day.

"Just watching him move around, I saw him throw a few balls, catch a few balls, saw him bend over and pick up (some balls), I guess it is lessening," Rivera said. "This is exactly what the doctor told us. It's a matter of time – get the stiffness out and the soreness out and he'll be all right."

Newton caught passes from a staff member and handed them to quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey during quarterback drills with Derek Anderson and Joe Webb. He didn't have trouble reaching up to catch a ball, but when picking up balls off the ground, Newton bent at the knees while keeping his back straight.

Anderson has taken the first-team reps this week while on call for the birth of his first child. He said before practice his wife, Mallory, is scheduled to have the baby Tuesday night, and he plans on playing in Thursday's exhibition against Pittsburgh.

Webb has taken over as the quarterback for the second and third teams after the Panthers placed Matt Blanchard (concussion) on the injured reserve Tuesday. Webb has completed 60 percent of his passes through three exhibitions for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Rivera confirmed Webb will survive the final round of cuts on Saturday and make the 53-man roster. But it's possible Webb would have made it even without an injury to Newton.

"After the second game, Joe was in the conversation as to whether we were going to keep three or not," Rivera said. "He's done a lot of things within what we do to intrigue us."

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