SPARTANBURG Year 3 of the Ron Rivera-Cam Newton era begins Friday night for the Carolina Panthers, although fans shouldnt expect to see the quarterback in the game long.
Rivera, who is 13-19 in his first two seasons as Carolinas coach, said he plans to play Newton and the rest of his starters about 10 to 15 plays in the preseason opener against Chicago at Bank of America Stadium.
Newton, who passed for more yards than any NFL quarterback in his first two seasons, will give way to second-string quarterback Derek Anderson. Third-teamer Jimmy Clausen also will play, Rivera said.
Its also about the flow of the game. Well see how that goes and well substitute accordingly, Rivera said Thursday. One of the things we want to do is make sure (Newton) gets some good work. Its not really about the numbers as much as it is the good work. And if were satisfied well start getting guys in and out.
Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who passed his physical earlier this week after dealing with a calf injury, will play against the Bears, Rivera said.
But several regulars and potential starters will sit the game out with injuries, including running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, linebacker Jon Beason, rookie guard Edmund Kugbila and No. 3 receiver Domenik Hixon.
Beason update: Beason, who underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in October, continues to rehab and do agility drills, but has yet to practice. He is targeting the Week 1 game against Seattle, but did not rule out playing in a preseason game.
Its day to day, Beason said. As soon as I feel Im up for it, go out there and go to practice and not have a couple snaps and (say), Coach, it doesnt feel too well. Im pleased with them allowing me the extra time. Obviously, we still have that. But everythings geared toward Sept. 8.
Rivera said Beason would be re-evaluated next week.
Obviously, wed love to get him in as many preseason games as we can, Rivera said.
Reading offenses: Though it appears the Panthers are doing less zone read this preseason, the times they do run it help both the offense and the defense.
With more teams picking up zone read a concept that was brought from the college ranks to the pros by former Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as a wrinkle in their offense, the Panthers defense uses the plays in practice to help prepare for when they see it in the season.
We see a little bit, things here and there, linebacker Chase Blackburn said. Even if its just for us to get it, because its becoming a big concept in the NFL. Offense is showing us that for us to read whos going to take the dive, whos going to take the quarterback?
• Funny moment from Thursday morning: left tackle Jordan Gross and tight end Greg Olsen engaging in a mock slap-fight in the huddle. Gross then said to Rivera: Coach, were fighting. Take us both out.
• DeAngelo Williams posted a video on his Facebook page of running backs Tolbert, Stewart, Armond Smith, Kenjon Barner and Michael Zordich singing and dancing to Just My Imagination at a Waffle House. Its worth the 3 1/2 minutes.
• Rookie tight end Brandon Williams, who played basketball last season at Portland Bible College, went up to grab a Hail Mary pass in a drill in which the defensive backs werent really contesting. Williams also made a nice, running catch near the sideline.
• Newton found Armanti Edwards in the back of the end zone during the two-minute drill. The play was controversial because Edwards may not have gotten both feet in bounds. But there were no referees at Thursdays practice, and the offense was awarded the touchdown.
• After practice the team gathered to sing Happy Birthday to secondary coach Steve Wilks, who turned 44 on Thursday.
3 Questions with P Brad Nortman
Q: Apparently theres a show where (Bears return specialist) Devin Hester races a cheetah. Who would you put your money on?
I heard about it, but I havent seen it. Im sure its close though. Tough to say. I think given a ball in their hands, I think Id go with Hester.
Q: Whos the fastest among the Panthers specialists?
Im one of the slowest unfortunately. I would say Graham (Gano) and Morgan (Lineberry) are pretty fast, and so is Jordan (Gay). Those guys have got those young legs. Unfortunately I think all my legs are good for are punting now.
Q: Did you have any tackles last year?
I dont think so. Its a good thing. I think there was one opportunity, but unfortunately I couldnt bring him down. Those guys are pretty fast.
Getting to know
CB Josh Thomas
NFL experience: 3 years
The scoop: Thomas is one of a number of cornerbacks fighting for second-team reps. He started the last four games of 2012 at right corner. This camp hes gotten in with the first team when Captain Munnerlyn moves to nickel, and hes trying to hold off D.J. Moore and Josh Norman on the defensive back depth chart.
Twitter handle: @Josh_Thomas22
Recent tweet: Im a natural at golf! Tiger watch out. #happy4th
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