Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers to exercise fifth-year option on Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers are getting the ball rolling on keeping Cam Newton in Charlotte for a fifth year.

The team has indicated multiple times in the past month it will exercise the fifth-year option on Newton’s rookie contract, and on Thursday, the team began the paperwork process to beat the May 3 deadline, according to a team source.

Newton signed a four-year contract worth $22 million when the Panthers drafted him with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. The option will keep him with the Panthers through the 2015 season when he will be paid $14.67 million in his fifth season.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has repeatedly said this offseason Newton is the team’s franchise quarterback, and the salary cap-challenged Panthers are hopeful they will work out a second contract with Newton by next year that will keep him in Charlotte for the long term.

Meanwhile, Newton continues to recover from ankle surgery performed in March. He said he’s recovering at a “rapid pace,” and initial timetables had Newton returning to full health by the start of training camp in late July.

NFL to look at bigger playoffs, longer PATs

The NFL will discuss expanded playoffs at the owners’ meetings next month in Atlanta.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told a gathering of Associated Press Sports Editors that a vote is uncertain on the proposal to add two teams to the postseason. Should the owners vote on the increase in May, Goodell said the 14-team playoffs could be implemented for the upcoming season, or for 2015.

If no vote is taken, then 2015 would be the target for expanded playoffs, with a vote possible in October or next March.

The league also would need to consult with the players union on the matter, but it seems clear more playoff teams are on the way.

“We’re being very deliberate about it,” Goodell said. “We want to make sure we do it in the right way.”

The NFL also will experiment with snapping the ball from the 15-yard line on extra points in the first two weeks of the preseason to make them more challenging. A kick from that distance would wind up being about 33 yards. Previously, the plan had been to experiment with moving kicks back to the 20.

But in conversations with the league’s competition committee and various teams, officiating director Dean Blandino said it became apparent a 33-yard extra point was a wiser choice for the experiment.

Around The League

Buffalo: The Bills cheerleaders will be making no appearances this year, a decision that comes days after a lawsuit over pay and working conditions.

Stephanie Mateczun is the manager of the Buffalo Jills and president of Stejon Productions Corp.

She wouldn’t explain the suspension, but two days earlier five former cheerleaders sued the company and NFL team.

The cheerleaders say they had to work hundreds of hours for free at games and were subjected to groping and sexual comments at mandatory public appearances. One cheerleader said they had to take a “jiggle test” so their boss could assess their physiques.

Cleveland: Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar believes he’s been unfairly sacked as a TV broadcaster.

Kosar has been removed as a color commentator for Cleveland’s preseason games by the team. The Browns said Wednesday night he was being replaced by Solomon Wilcots, who will work with play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan.

Kosar contends he’s been removed because of slurred speech he attributes to “a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL.”

N.Y. Jets: The Jets are holding training camp at SUNY Cortland again this summer, returning to central New York for the fifth time in the last six years.

The team trains on the school’s campus, located about three hours from the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, N.J. The Jets have practiced there each summer of Rex Ryan’s tenure, except for 2011 after the NFL lockout.

New York did not announce any dates Wednesday, but teams can begin camp 15 days before their first preseason game. That means the Jets can start as early as July 23, with their opener Aug. 7 at home against Indianapolis.

San Francisco: The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has referred the airport arrest of 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office for misdemeanor consideration.

The referral by county prosecutors was announced without elaboration.

Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport.

Seattle: When it was clear Marcus Trufant’s time with the Seahawks was over following the 2012 season, he was given a message by general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll on his way out.

If it became apparent that Trufant was ready to retire from the NFL, they wanted him to do it as a member of the Seahawks.

Trufant got that opportunity, officially retiring from football after signing a one-day contract with Seattle.