If everything goes as planned, the seemingly round-the-clock updates on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s cracked ribs should stop – or at least slow down – sometime Wednesday afternoon.
That’s when coach Ron Rivera expects his franchise quarterback to practice and take the first step toward returning to the lineup in Week 2 against Detroit.
A day after Newton missed the first game of his career while backup quarterback Derek Anderson led the Panthers to a 20-14 win at Tampa Bay, Rivera reiterated that he expects Newton to start against the Lions as long as there are no setbacks.
“But I expect him to be ready to roll,” Rivera said Monday.
Newton seemed to be in good spirits Monday, although he wasn’t interested in talking to reporters. He politely declined an interview request after leaving the quarterbacks meeting.
Newton, who underwent offseason surgery on his left ankle, said last week he’d never missed a game at any level because of injury. But Rivera decided the risk of further injury was too great to play him against the Bucs.
Rivera said Newton learned something while standing next to Rivera for much of Sunday’s victory at Raymond James Stadium.
“How much he hates being on the sideline, which is what he told me,” Rivera said. “He told me it was the longest game of his life just sitting there watching.”
Despite missing nearly two weeks of practice after getting hurt in an Aug. 22 exhibition at New England, Newton wanted to play in the opener against the Bucs. He made those feelings clear when Rivera told him Saturday at the team hotel he would be on the inactive list.
“The conversation I eventually had with him was hard. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. But at same time, it was a decision I had to make,” Rivera said. “In the long run, win or lose, we’re better off now. He’s going to get another week into his recovery, which the doctors were all pointing to.”
Rivera said doctors told him the extra week would make a difference in healing the hairline fracture in Newton’s lower back.
“We were able to accomplish it and still win,” Rivera said.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Newton’s disappointment was evident Sunday, when his streak of 48 consecutive starts came to an end.
“He was down for sure at the beginning. And I would have been totally surprised and upset if he hadn’t been,” Shula said. “You guys know Cam. He loves game day, and when you take that away from him ... he was definitely down to start with. But it’s part of being a pro. And as tough as it was for him, he understood that. I know he was just dying to be out there.”
Anderson, making his first start since 2010, completed 24 of 34 passes for 230 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. The nine-year veteran and former Pro Bowler showed good poise in the pocket and got into an early rhythm with several short completions.
Rivera said Anderson managed the game and took his check-down throws, something Newton is sometimes reluctant to do.
“I think where Cam would have held the ball or ran with the ball, Derek just dumped it, and I think that’s one thing that Cam will get out of watching this,” Rivera said. “Cam wants to extend the play, and he’ll hold on to it or he’ll run. ... You saw Derek really only run one time, and it looked like he was running for his life.”
Rivera said the Panthers would keep three quarterbacks for the time being, but indicated Joe Webb would only be active for games if there were injury concerns with Newton or Anderson.
“Joe’s earned the right to be here,” Rivera said. “So we’re going to continue with three quarterbacks right now.”
But it’s the starting quarterback whose status has been the subject of much discussion and debate for the past two weeks. Rivera hopes that talk will die down by midweek.
“He did his workout (Monday). Everything looks good,” Rivera said. “So we’ll expect to see him on the practice field come Wednesday.”