CHARLOTTE – On Wednesday, quarterback Cam Newton returned to practice for the first time since his car accident last Tuesday.
And Newton, who split reps with Derek Anderson and was listed as a limited participant, didn't look someone suffering any ill-effects from the layoff or the two transverse process fractures in his back.
"I liked what I saw," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's progressed. He threw the ball well. He threw a couple deep balls over 60 yards. He went through all the drills – everything that we had slated for him."
Teammates echoed Rivera's observations. They, too, thought Newton performed well. But Newton's recovery and pain tolerance is truly a day by day process. Rivera and the athletic training staff need to see how Newton's body reacts to each practice throughout the week.
"They put him through some very vigorous stuff today to stress him and see how he feels. It'll help us as we go forward," Rivera said. "Tomorrow will be a big day, especially in the morning, to see where he is health-wise."
As the Panthers continue to work through the process of determining who their starting quarterback will be Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, communication between Newton and the athletic training staff will be critical.
"They are communicating very well and (head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion) is double checking everything on him," Rivera said. "(Cam) is on board with everything that we have planned and mapped out."
The final decision will ultimately involve a lot of people's input, including Newton's.
"Yes," Rivera said. "We are going to have to listen to him."
In a lot of ways, this week has reminded Rivera of the preparation for Week 2 against the Detroit Lions. Anderson started the season opener for Newton, who was battling ankle and rib injuries, and Newton returned to start against the Lions.
Will a similar week have a similar outcome, with Newton returning to the lineup?
"We'll see," Rivera said.