- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Derek Anderson didn’t leave Cleveland under the best of terms in 2009. Admittedly frustrated after being cut, he called the fans “ruthless’’ and said they “didn’t deserve a winner.’’
“I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured,’’ Anderson said at the time. “I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and [we] roll them.’’
That opportunity could come on Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers still haven’t decided whether starting quarterback Cam Newton will return after suffering two small fractures in his lower back nine days ago in a two-vehicle crash near Bank of America Stadium.
If Newton can’t play, Anderson will get his second straight start and third of the season when Carolina (5-8-1) faces the Browns (7-7) in Charlotte.
Anderson is a realist. He knows Newton’s competitive spirit and that if he continues to progress from what he did in Wednesday’s practice, it will be hard to not start the two-time Pro Bowl selection.
Anderson also makes no secret he’d love to face the Browns, although not because of the things he said five years ago.
“The whole situation and how the whole thing went down in the last few months wasn’t great,” Anderson said on Wednesday. “I said some things I regret saying when I left.
“But it’s over with, I’ve moved on. I’m happy. I wasn’t in a great place when I left. I’m in a lot better place now.”
Carolina tight end Greg Olsen has said repeatedly there are a lot of NFL teams that would love to have Anderson as their starter. He wouldn’t bite when asked if one of those teams is Cleveland.
The Browns haven’t had a consistent quarterback since Anderson was cut. Brian Hoyer was benched last week in favor of first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel, who had a disastrous debut with a passer rating of 27.3 in a 30-0 loss to Cincinnati.
Anderson is 2-0 as a starter this year with a passer rating of 105.2.
“I know it’s been a while since he played there, but I’m sure he would be excited to go show them what he’s capable of these many years later after they kind of showed him the door,” Olsen said. “It’s been kind of a revolving quarterback position there ever since.”
But this game isn’t about revenge for Anderson as much as it is doing whatever he can to keep the Panthers in the playoff hunt. Carolina needs to win its final two games against the Browns and Atlanta, along with a New Orleans loss, to repeat as NFC South champions.
“It’s out of my control,’’ Anderson said of whether he starts or not. “I just have to continue to have a very good understanding of what we’re going to do. If I play, I’ll play and be ready to go.’’
That the opponent is Cleveland does make this intriguing, though. Anderson went to the Pro Bowl with the Browns in 2007 after passing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns en route to a 10-5 record as the starter.
He was 16-18 as a starter during his five seasons that he described as “up and down, wonderful at times.’’
But Anderson isn’t focused on those times or the bitter feelings he had back then.
“I’ve moved on from it,’’ Anderson said. “I’m focused on us.’’