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QB Anderson ready to lead Panthers

CHARLOTTE – The well-being of Cam Newton has been on Derek Anderson's mind since he learned that the Panthers' starting quarterback had been involved in a serious automobile accident.

Now, with assurances that Newton avoided serious injury, Anderson will slowly shift his focus to his role as Panthers' starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"The most important thing about this week is the safety and health of one of my brothers," Anderson said. "We're all thinking about him and hoping for a speedy recovery."

Anderson was at home Tuesday, getting ready to drive to Bank of America Stadium just like Newton, when he got word that Newton had been involved in an accident.

"I had just finished eating lunch with my wife and was going to head over here to watch tape when my phone just started blowing up with, 'Is he all right? Is he all right?' " Anderson said. "And I was like, 'What are you guys talking about?' Then I turned the TV on."

Anderson got updates on Newton's status throughout the day. While Anderson eventually learned that Newton broke two bones in his back but should be OK sooner rather than later, Anderson also learned that he would start against the Buccaneers.

"Derek will start," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I talked with him last night about it, about the situation and circumstances going forward.

"He's a veteran quarterback. He's been through this before. He understands. He's had success as a quarterback in this league, and he got a sense of who Tampa Bay is by playing against them in Week 1."

Anderson stepped in as opening day starter to give Newton more time to recover from a rib injury suffered in the preseason. In his first start for the Panthers in his fourth season on the team, Anderson led Carolina to a 17-14 victory, completing 24-of-34 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

Anderson was doubly prepared for the start thanks to the abundance of reps he got in the offseason with Newton sidelined following ankle surgery. Same goes for offseason acquisition Joe Webb, who will back up Anderson against the Buccaneers.

"We are very fortunate to have a guy like Derek. We're also lucky to have Joe Webb as the backup," Rivera said. "The nice thing about Derek's situation is last offseason he got an opportunity to work with all those guys. He's got a feel for Kelvin (Benjamin), a really good feel for Greg Olsen and Philly Brown. He's got a nice rapport with (Jerricho) Cotchery, knowing that Cotch is where he needs him to be, and with the backs."

That trust is a two-way street.

"Everyone on this team has a lot of confidence in D.A.," Cotchery said. "The confidence we have comes from the way he prepares each week. The guys see it day in and day out that he's more than capable of doing the job, and he's gone into stadiums and proven it."

Sunday, Anderson will get another chance to prove his value and help improve the Panthers' postseason hopes when he makes his first career start at Bank of America Stadium.

"We're all fired up about this weekend and the opportunity we have," Anderson said. "It's going to take a city-wide effort to get the stadium rocking. Last week we played well, and we're looking to continue that."

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