CHARLOTTE – The Panthers' first-team units won't necessarily see as many snaps Friday against New England as they in the second preseason game, but Panthers fans should still get to see a good amount of them in action.
"We won't go really long with the first group, but they should still get some quality reps, maybe even a two-minute drill at the end of the first half," head coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday. "I would love to be able to do that, to get 30-35 snaps on both sides of the ball. That would be outstanding in terms of getting these guys some real good looks, quarterback included."
Several in-game factors will determine how long quarterback Cam Newton, fresh off his preseason debut, will play. While Newton gave way to Derek Anderson for the final drive of the first half in Sunday's 28-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, some starters played into the second half.
With just five days between games, Rivera and his staff will not game-plan as extensively for the Patriots, but the game film created will prove valuable. The staff will be strategic with the roles that reserves fill against the Patriots because the Panthers must cut 14 players by Tuesday.
"This game is big for a lot of guys. There are a lot of guys on both sides of the ball and special teams that have to perform," Rivera said. "We have to make some tough decisions. We're going to have to let some good football players go. We'll play them, and then we'll get back evaluate, look at the tape and then make some decisions."
FAMILIAR FOE: The Patriots game will reunite the Panthers with wide receiver Brandon LaFell, a key contributor for Carolina the last four seasons who had a touchdown reception among his seven catches in last year's Monday Night Football victory over New England.
"I would have loved to have had all of our guys back, but it's just the unfortunate nature of the business. Guys move on," Rivera said. "Brandon is most certainly one of the guys you would have loved to have had back. You would have loved to have Captain (Munnerlyn), Mike Mitchell, Teddy (Ginn), all those guys.
"They helped us accomplish what we did last year, but it's a part of this game. You have to move on. At the same time, we're finding some other football players that can come in and do some things for us."
INJURY UPDATE: Offensive tackle Nate Chandler is dealing with some swelling in his knee that will likely sideline him against the Patriots.
"Right now, Nate doesn't look like he's going to make it," Rivera said. "The docs feel like this would be a good time to give him some time off."
Guard Trai Turner (groin) also missed practice Wednesday but could still make the trip depending how Thursday goes. Cornerback Melvin White sat out practice after his back stiffened up, but he might practice Thursday.
Defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), linebacker Chase Blackburn (back) and safety Roman Harper (toe) remain among those not practicing, but the defense did welcome back Tre Boston. The rookie safety, selected in the fourth round of the draft, returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a groin injury on July 29 during his first training camp practice.