WESTFIELD, Ind. — Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Friday that the plan was to rest his starters in Sunday's preseason opener against the Colts.
They got plenty of work in two days of joint practices with the Colts, which lessened the need for reps in a live game (with actual tackling).
Rhule said that the first team's workload in these workouts made it easier for him to park them Sunday.
"We didn't substitute the ones much here; now we'll get the twos and threes," he said. "This year's different. We cut down to 85 on Tuesday, so I want to make sure all 90 guys are healthy and on tape, so we make the right and appropriate decisions.
"I was probably going to play the ones up to about Wednesday, but looked at it and said let's treat it this way."
He said he hadn't decided about next week's game with the Ravens, but it will also follow two days of joint workouts.
Rhule said that quarterback Sam Darnold would "definitely" play in the third preseason game against the Steelers.
Darnold said he was fine with that, as quarterbacks are off-limits during joint workouts, and not being tackled is always a good thing.
"For us, we're going to go out there pregame and have a really good workout, throw some routes, and work some different things with the starters," Darnold said. "And obviously be a really good help on the sidelines. I'll be listening to the plays, be locked in mentally every single rep, and go about it that way."
Rhule said backup quarterback P.J. Walker would start Sunday's game, and they'd likely split the reps between him and Will Grier as close to evenly as possible. But he said he hadn't made a decision on which quarterback would start against the Ravens if Darnold doesn't play. The team's depth chart lists the second quarterback as Walker or Grier, so there isn't as much space between them as there might have been at one point.
The news was also welcome to players on the other side of the ball, after a physical couple of days.
"Oh, for sure?" defensive end Brian Burns replied with a smile when informed of Rhule's announcement.
"Yeah, that's great," Burns said. "I want to see the guys go out there and show what they do. It would have felt good to go out there and get a series or two in, but I'm not complaining.
"Today was enough. I'm ready now. if we had to play the Jets today, I'd be ready."
View photos from Friday's joint practice with the Colts at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.