CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cam Newton said Wednesday that "there's no doubt" he will be in the starting lineup when the Panthers open the regular season on September 7 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton, who suffered a rib injury in the team's Week 3 preseason game against the New England Patriots on August 22, didn't practice but appeared to be moving better than he had the previous two days.
"My body feels better. It's been a great process," Newton said. "There was soreness like any other injury. It's obvious that my ribs were hurting, but I'm moving forward and trying to stay positive and optimistic about this whole process. It's given me an even greater focus on healing my ankle at the same time."
Newton already was playing a bit of catchup from a preparation standpoint after offseason ankle surgery limited his physical work with the Panthers' receivers leading up to training camp. But Newton got mental reps throughout and participated in every training camp practice in addition to playing in two preseason games.
Head coach Ron Rivera said Newton would travel with the team to Pittsburgh for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Steelers.
"I try to impact this team as much as possible with whatever is expected or asked of me, whether it's treating my body, talking to the rookies or getting lectured by myself or by my coaches," Newton said. "It's no setback at all. I'm going to control the things that I can control. I'm excited about the opportunity, and each day brings me more confidence that I am getting closer to 100 percent."
Newton was injured when he scrambled and then lunged forward toward the turf as Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins closed in and tackled him. Newton typically doesn't slide to give himself up the way many NFL quarterbacks do but was noncommittal if that might change.
"I guess we will all just have to stay tuned and see," he said. "I am who I am, and things do happen. One thing you know playing this game is that you will get hurt sooner or later."