CHARLOTTE – Cam Newton will see his first game action since undergoing ankle surgery in March when the Carolina Panthers play host to the Kansas City Chiefs this evening.
Just how much he’ll play remains to be seen.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera expects Newton to play at least a quarter, but said it’s possible the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback could see additional action. He said that will depend on how well the offensive line protects and if Newton can control his competitive urges to take off and run when pressured in the pocket.
“If we’re playing well, doing good things and the offensive line is shoring up, we’ll continue with him into the second (quarter),” Rivera said. “If not, we’ve got to be smart about this and make a decision.”
Newton has been practicing all week and even ran some read option.
But Rivera said the Panthers won’t be running the read option during the game. Nor does he want his quarterback’s adrenaline taking over and having him running all over the field.
“He can’t help himself because he loves to compete and he wants to win,” Rivera said. “That is one of the things that is of concern — that he’ll get out there and he may see something, he may go from a three to a seven (in terms of effort) and the next thing you know he’s out there doing his thing. That’s just who he is. He’s very competitive.”
The Panthers want Newton to avoid a setback before the regular season opener against Tampa Bay.
“Each day it’s been getting better and better for me,” Newton said. “At this point, we don’t want to have any mishaps in the treatment process.”
Newton said he’s doing what he can for a healthy return for the regular season.
“The thing that keeps coming back up is, ‘Keep treating it. Treat it when it feels good and treat it when it feels bad. Don’t be that guy that only treats it when it’s nagging. Try to stay ahead of the pain,’” Newton said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s been paying off.”
Rivera said some starters will play into the third quarter.
Rivera is treating this game like the third preseason game because the Panthers have a short week coming up as they prepare for New England next Friday.
This also will be the first chance for Newton to play with rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who has been his top target during training camp.
The Panthers are hoping Benjamin fills the void left by veteran Steve Smith, who was released this past offseason.
The Chiefs are looking for answers at wide receiver, too.
Dwayne Bowe is expected to anchor their receiving corps, but he will miss the first regular-season game because of a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Junior Hemingway is emerging as a big slot receiver and De’Anthony Thomas has the talent of a playmaker. Donnie Avery, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins and Frankie Hammond Jr. are also competing for playing time and all would benefit from a good showing against the Panthers.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.