SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Panthers have not yet decided if quarterback Cam Newton, who is still working his surgically repaired ankle back to full strength, will play in Friday's preseason opener versus the Buffalo Bills.
"We all have to understand that we are going through this process that we've mapped out," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We want to make sure that when we get our guy on the field, he's ready to roll."
Newton said he is approaching the game as if he will play, and he will wait for official word from the coaches and trainers.
"Do I want to play? I do," Newton said. "But at the end of the day, I'm sticking to the program. I'm sticking to what the coaches and R.V. (head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion) are asking me to do."
Newton partook in the first portion of Thursday's practice – primarily individual drills with the wide receivers. Toward the end of practice he went to the training room with Vermillion to go through scheduled testing on the ankle.
"From what he was saying, my ankle is getting stronger," Newton said. "I feel like my ankle is getting stronger."
Newton said he occasionally feels some discomfort in the ankle but stressed that it's not too concerning.
"It's like a thump from your mom when you say something you weren't supposed to. She'll thump you dead in your ear or on your head," Newton explained. "It will hurt for that little second but it will go away. It's a reminder that hey, you've got to check yourself."
If Newton steps onto the field, Rivera and the training staff want to be sure he is fully capable of evading pressure and protecting himself.
"That's the biggest thing," Rivera said. "He's got to be able to protect himself if something breaks down. That's what we are really concerned about. The other thing too is if he takes a hit on (the ankle). We have to make sure it is structurally sound."