Cam Newton planning for opener with Bucs

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
4:59
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are planning for their Sept. 7 opener at Tampa Bay as if quarterback Cam Newton will start.

Newton suffered a hairline fracture in a rib during the second quarter of Friday night's exhibition loss at New England. He will not play in Thursday night's preseason finale at Pittsburgh, but he is attending every meeting and watching every snap at practice.

Newton
Newton
While Newton is not physically involved, he has been mentally since the team began putting the Tampa Bay game plan in on Sunday.

"Very, very," coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. "He's with the coordinator, he's with the quarterback coach and they're talking about what we're looking at and why we're looking at it.

"So Cam's getting a feel for Tampa Bay right now."

Rivera said he hasn't gotten an update on how much Newton's condition has improved in the last 24 hours, but the first pick of the 2011 draft did seem less stiff when walking.

As Newton left the practice field, rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin playfully nudged him in the shoulder a couple of times. Newton responded by raising his arms and playfully shoving Benjamin back.

Rivera said treatment hasn't gotten in the way of Newton being a part of all planning involving the Bucs.

"We're working around him," said Rivera, who closed practices to the media when preparing for the Bucs began. "We're focusing him on Tampa in terms of our preparation."

Rivera said there aren't two different game plans in case Newton can't play against Tampa Bay and backup Derek Anderson has to start.

"We're putting a regular game plan together," he said. "The big thing is everything we put in our game plan Derek is able to do. We don't have two separate sheets. We have one plan."

But Rivera is having to make adjustments for what little game plan there will be for Pittsburgh. With Anderson's wife expecting their first child at any time and fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard out with a concussion, there's a chance third-stringer Joe Webb is the only quarterback.

As a precaution, Rivera said a couple of non-quarterbacks are being prepped to play quarterback if Anderson is with his wife and Webb gets hurt. He would not identify them.

Otherwise, Rivera said the plan is to play the healthy starters for about a quarter.

Starters not expected to play against Pittsburgh include Newton, right guard Trai Turner (groin), defensive ends Greg Hardy (shoulder) and Charles Johnson (hamstring).

A decision has not been made on tight end Greg Olsen, whose son successfully underwent open heart surgery on Monday.

All are expected to be ready for Tampa Bay.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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