The Carolina Panthers hope to play quarterback Cam Newton for the first half Friday at New England, although he’ll have some different linemen protecting him.
Newton played five series in Sunday’s win against Kansas City in his first action since March surgery to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle. Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on his final two series before giving way to backup Derek Anderson late in the second quarter.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the plan is to keep Newton in for the entire first half against the Patriots, as long as there are no setbacks with the ankle.
“They’re still going to get some good reps, some quality reps,” Rivera said Wednesday. “I hope we can get a two-minute drill at the end of the first half with that bunch, as well.”
The Panthers likely will be without the starting right side of their offensive line at New England. Right tackle Nate Chandler is out with swelling in his knee, and rookie guard Trai Turner has missed the past two days of practice with a groin injury.
Rivera said Turner would be re-evaluated Friday.
Veteran Garry Williams will replace Chandler. Chris Scott, who started eight games at right guard last year, would step in for Turner, the third-round pick from LSU.
Williams, in his sixth season out of Kentucky, has 21 career starts. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard last season against Seattle, but tore two ligaments in his left knee and was lost for the year. He said the knee is 100 percent and he’s happy to be contributing again.
“I’m going to go out and give ‘em all I’ve got, make sure I protect Cam, make sure I open holes for the running backs,” Williams said after Wednesday’s practice. “Just do my job.”
Williams re-signed with the Panthers during the offseason on a one-year deal worth $780,000. Rivera said the team values Williams’ versatility: He can play every offensive line position except center.
“That’s why you have Garry around. Because Garry has that kind of flexibility and ability to play so many different things for you,” Rivera said.
Williams said he would like to be a starter, but isn’t going to complain about his role.
“We’ve got two tackles fighting, but I’m going to make sure I give them competition,” he said. “It’s not just for yourself. It’s for the team. So whatever’s in the best interest for the team is what I’m trying to give them.”