Having sat out of yesterday's season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cam Newton is likely to make his 2014 season debut next weekend against the Detroit Lions, according to Panthers' coach Ron Rivera.
Newton, who suffered hairline fractures to his ribs in an August 22 preseason game against the New England Patriots, watched from the sidelines as Derek Anderson led Carolina to a 20-14 road win over the Bucs. Newton, who had never missed a game due to injury in his football career until yesterday, wanted to play, but the team was hesitant to put its quarterback at risk of further injury, as one shot to the affected area could have compounded the situation and kept the Panthers' signal-caller out for weeks as opposed to days.
Speaking after Sunday's win, Rivera's confidence in Newton's forthcoming availability for week 2 seemed much greater, just days after announcing his quarterback as a game-time decision for week 1.
"In the long run, win or lose, we're better off now," Rivera said. "He will be another week into his recovery. The doctors were all saying if we can get to this (week) we will all feel more comfortable about his situation." Cam Newton is looking like a go for week 2.
In addition to his rib ailments, Newton underwent a procedure to tighten ligaments in his ankle during the spring, and endured a protracted recovery period that lasted well into the offseason program. Additional injury was the last thing the Panthers wanted to expose their star player to, and Rivera was grateful to be able to call on a seasoned pro like Anderson, who demonstrated great command of the offense and did not turn the ball over Sunday.
"Having known that Derek has played in this league and has had a lot of success in this league, I was very comfortable and very confident," Rivera said.
Even in Newton's absence, rookie Kelvin Benjamin made a sensational debut, catching 6 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Greg Olsen, the team's reliable tight end and a valuable target for Newton, caught 8 balls of his own for 83 yards and a score. With a seemingly brand new corps of receivers to throw to following the offseason departures of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, Newton will look to gel quickly with his new teammates, as Sunday's matchup with Detroit beckons.
As it stands, all signs point to Cam Newton making his season debut for the Panthers next weekend. If there is any change to the 2011 offensive rookie of the year's status, we will be sure to provide an update.