SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Quarterback Cam Newton says he's had a productive offseason and he's confident he's improved.
He's anxious to get his first true progress report Saturday night when the Panthers play host to the Houston Texans to open their preseason.
"Saturday is the first time we'll put a product on the field that we can test," Newton said. "Going against each other in practice – that can only take it so far.
"We've been sharpening our blades, but Saturday will be the first pop quiz, to a degree. We're playing against people that we don't see on an everyday basis. We scout them up as much as we can with the short time we've been given. It's going to be a real test."
His teammates have expressed their excitement about the opportunity to hit someone wearing a different uniform. But Newton hopes to keep his jersey clean Saturday.
"Hitting? Hopefully, I won't be getting hit," he said.
But he is most certainly looking forward to the game day atmosphere.
"A lot of energy, especially playing in Bank of America Stadium," Newton said. "We just need to claim what's ours, and that's winning all our homes games."
APPLAUDING ANDERSON: Once Newton and the first-team offense work through their allotted reps against Houston, veteran quarterback Derek Anderson will take charge with the second unit.
Anderson has been a valuable resource for Newton and third-year signal-caller Jimmy Clausen in his second season in Carolina.
In some ways, it's as if head coach Ron Rivera has another teacher on his coaching staff.
"D.A. has done an outstanding job for our young quarterbacks, and not just the quarterbacks that seem to lean on him for information, but (also) the young receivers, because Derek understands this entire offense," Rivera said. "He also brings a different perspective that sometimes coaches can't give. His presence in the locker room and in the meeting room has been outstanding for our team as a whole."
WELCOME HOME: Safety Haruki Nakamura searched for a house before he searched for a football home this offseason.
In the end, they proved to be one and the same.
"When Carolina called, we had actually been here a month before doing some house searching," Nakamura said. "It worked out perfectly.
"It's just a beautiful area, a great place to raise a family and settle."
And Nakamura, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, recently welcomed a new member to his household. His wife, Jamie, gave birth to the couple's first son on June 11.
CH-CH-CH-CHIA: Panthers defensive end Thomas Keiser is familiar with the 1990s ads for Chia Pet, an animal-shaped piece of pottery that sprouts like a shrub when water is added to chia seeds.
That hasn't stopped Keiser from adding water to chia seeds - then drinking the mixture.
"People ask me all the time if it's the same stuff that's in Chia Pets. It is," Keiser said. "I'll have probably two or three tablespoons in somewhere between two-thirds and a full gallon of water every day."
Keiser carries a gallon-sized water jug with seeds floating in it around camp. He says the benefits outweigh his teammate's teasing.
"It helps hydrate you, because it absorbs 10 times its weight in water," Keiser said. "And instead of the water just going in your system and flushing right out, it's going to sit in you longer.
"Most of the guys think I'm pretty weird for carrying that around. I just keep telling them it's like Mike's Magic Juice in 'Space Jam'."
Senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.