Carolina Panthers

Panthers QB Cam Newton returns to practice in observer role

Cam Newton was back at Panthers practice for the first time since his car accident, but he was just an observer on Friday.

The Panthers quarterback arrived a few minutes late to practice on a golf cart with general manager Dave Gettleman and head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. He wanted to be there for moral support more than anything.

“It was good to see him out there with the guys,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We have him working out in the training room. They have him on the underwater treadmill, moving around in that. He had a good session (Friday) morning, had a good session (Thursday) as well.

“He said he’s feeling a lot better each day. It’s good news.”

Newton walked stiffly around practice during the portion open to the media. He didn’t stretch with the team and remained on the sideline during exercises.

When the offense worked on routes, Newton stayed behind the quarterback and watched. He caught two soft passes from Derek Anderson, this week’s starter, and receiver Philly Brown.

Newton did not throw a pass, and Rivera said he likely won’t until next week.

“He’s right in the middle of it, and just listening to his voice, you don’t think anything is wrong,” Rivera said. “And it’s oh, he’s watching today.”

Williams unlikely to play: Unless a running back catches the stomach bug that’s floated around the Panthers’ facilities, DeAngelo Williams will be inactive Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Williams was limited at Friday’s practice, and he’s listed as doubtful with a broken bone in his right hand. He can rush the ball but has only carried it with his left hand, as his right still has a cast on it.

The Panthers still haven’t thrown to Williams out of the backfield, either. The more likely scenario is Williams will be back for next week’s game against Cleveland.

“He’s taken handoffs, and he’s run with the ball,” Rivera said. “He looks good and wants to stay in game shape, and we’ll approach it as each week passes.”

Jonathan Stewart will get the start at running back for the second straight week.

Fines: Panthers tight end Brandon Williams and Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton were each fined $8,268 for their roles in last week’s scuffle between the Panthers and Saints.

Williams expected the fine and said he planned to appeal it, saying he acted in self-defense.

The fight broke out after Newton scored the second touchdown of the game. Newton did two Superman poses after the score as Saints players pushed him around. Newton was not fined for his role in the fight.

Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin was also fined $8,268 for an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Saints.

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was not fined for his hit on Newton that was flagged unnecessary roughness for a late hit out of bounds on the running quarterback.

Extra points: Rivera accidentally pocket-dialed friend and Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier just as Rivera sat down to address the media Friday. Rivera has been named a top-10 finalist for the NFL Salute to Service Award, presented by USAA. The winner will be announced Jan. 31. Panthers safety Roman Harper will host his inaugural Hope for Tomorrow event through his foundation on Dec. 15. For more information, visit