Rivera did say Newton will start the final preseason game.
"The big thing is to continue to see how he handles everything," Rivera said. "We have to really study him and watch him. We have to make sure he's progressing in the right direction. This is a very sincere thing for us. We don't want to just say, 'Hey, you're the guy,' and walk away from it. At the same time, we want him to understand that he is working towards being our guy."
All indications are Newton will be the starter when the Panthers open their regular season Sept. 11 at Arizona. Second-year pro Jimmy Clausen has a knee injury and Derek Anderson is viewed by the coaching staff as nothing more than a backup.
The No. 1 overall pick in the April draft and last season's Heisman Trophy winner, Newton could become the first Carolina rookie quarterback to open the season as the starter since Chris Weinke in 2001, when the Panthers went 1-15.
Although the lockout prevented Newton from getting offseason work under the guidance of the coaching staff, the team's plan entering training camp was to open the regular season with Newton as the starter, as long as he did not have a disastrous preseason and training camp. The team let Clausen start the first preseason game, but gave Newton significantly more playing time. Newton has started the last two preseason games.
The coaches have been pleased with what Newton has shown in practices. His performance in the preseason has been less than spectacular and his accuracy has not been good. Newton has completed 21 of 52 (40.4 percent) passes for 275 yards and no touchdowns and a 57.8 passer rating. He did run for a touchdown in Thursday night's exhibition in Cincinnati and that was the only touchdown Carolina's offense has scored while Newton has been on the field this preseason.
But the team has been happy that Newton has not thrown an interception in the preseason and he hasn't had any problems operating under center after taking almost all of his snaps from the shotgun formation while at Auburn.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFC South for ESPN.com.