CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Derek Anderson knows the Panthers end the preseason Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Steelers and begin the regular season September 7 at 4:25 p.m. at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While Anderson can look at a schedule and see that, he can't see into the future for the exact time he'll become a father or the exact time quarterback Cam Newton will return from a rib injury.
All Anderson and the Panthers can do is hope for good timing.
"There's nothing we can really do," Anderson said. "We just have to wait, and whenever it happens, it happens."
Here's what Anderson does know. His wife's due date for giving birth to the couple's first child was Saturday. He also knows that Newton and fellow quarterback Matt Blanchard (concussion) have been ruled out for Thursday's game, leaving him and Joe Webb.
"Hopefully I can do both, right?" Anderson said. "We've got a couple of more days, but it's nothing we can control."
Webb, who led the Panthers to a quick-strike touchdown Friday against New England after Blanchard sustained his injury in the final minutes, certainly is capable of playing for an entire game – assuming he doesn't get hurt. But what if he was called upon do that, only to get hurt himself?
"We do have an emergency plan, a couple of guys that as we go into the season would be there in an emergency for us," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Hopefully, we never get to that point.
"But that's the nature of the game, and this could potentially happen in the regular season. We've just got to adapt to it, and it's basically next man up."
While the quarterback situation for the Steelers game is the immediate concern, the situation for the Buccaneers game is actually the more critical one.
Rivera is confident that Newton will be ready for Week 1, but he's just as confident that Anderson will be ready if called upon. Anderson hasn't started a game in his three seasons with Carolina, but Rivera believes Anderson is essentially the same quarterback that represented the Cleveland Browns in the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season.
"He really is, and he's as sharp mentally, too," Rivera said. "Obviously he's got to knock some rust off, but I think he'll be OK."
Rivera closed practice to the media each of the last two days so the Panthers could install their game plan for Tampa Bay. Newton was on the field every step of the way, and the game-planning process hasn't been impacted by the possibility that Anderson could be the starter.
"We're putting our regular game plan together, because the biggest thing is that everything we do in our game plan, Derek has the ability to do," Rivera said. "When we game plan, we don't have two separate sheets. We have one game plan. That's it. That's the way it's always been. We're not going to change the way we do things."
Between preparing for Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay - and that little matter of becoming a father - Anderson admitted that things have been "a little hectic." He's gotten permission to bring his phone into meetings in case his wife calls, while head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion is serving as Anderson's lifeline to his wife during practice.
Anderson, however, stopped short of calling this the most stressful time he's ever had to endure.
"No, because obviously there's great joy that's going to join us here shortly and something that we've been looking forward to as a family for quite some time," he said. "It is stressful because I have a job and an obligation to my teammates and my team but also to my wife and my family. I'm trying to juggle those two things that are very important to me."