Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said how long quarterback Cam Newton plays Sunday night against Kansas City depends on how well the offensive line blocks for him.
Newton, who will be making his first exhibition start following offseason ankle surgery, will play at least the first quarter against the Chiefs. Newton’s status after that will hinge on the protection.
“He’ll start off. He’ll play the first quarter, and we’ll evaluate the whole situation and set of circumstances. If we’re playing well, doing some good things, the offensive line is shoring up, we’ll continue with him into the second,” Rivera said after Friday’s practice. “If not, we’ve got to be smart about this and make a decision.”
Since entering the NFL in 2011, Newton has been hit 467 times, nearly twice as much as any other quarterback, according to ESPN.
The Panthers’ offensive line includes three players who are either new to the starting lineup or playing different positions, including rookie right guard Trai Turner. The line did not allow a sack in the exhibition opener against Buffalo while quarterback Derek Anderson, the starter that day, was in the game.
Newton was held out last week against the Bills. The fourth-year quarterback underwent surgery in March to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle, and missed all but the final practice during organized team activities.
The Panthers have slowly increased Newton’s workload during the preseason. And while Rivera is eager for Newton to get game reps, he also is mindful about Newton suffering a setback in an exhibition game.
“He’s done some really good things,” Rivera said. “We’ve had some really good practices, so I’m excited to see him out on the football field.”