Carolina Panthers

Panthers coach Ron Rivera: Starters should play into 3rd quarter Friday

Cam Newton and the rest of the Carolina Panthers starters should play into the third quarter on Friday against the New England Patriots, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday.

Rivera said 35 to 40 plays would be “perfect” for the team, wanting them to come out of halftime and play a series before handing it over to the backups in the season’s third exhibition game.

Newton played 16 snaps at Buffalo and 22 against the Dolphins in two games where the opposing offense dominated time of possession in the first half.

But with the injuries to the Panthers – from Kelvin Benjamin and Frank Alexander to Ryan Kalil and more – would Rivera consider dialing back some of the first-team offenses snaps in order to preserve the players for the regular season?

“That’s when people tend to get hurt,” Rivera said. “You try to be careful. If you say, ‘Oh well he’s only going to play 20,’ then he starts gearing down. You tell them hey guys we’ll see how it goes in the third quarter and make a decision then. I think that’s better. Then they’ll play and won’t start thinking about dialing it down.”

Last year in the third exhibition against New England, Newton played in 28 snaps before suffering cracked ribs that would keep him out of the season opener at Tampa Bay.