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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Newton No. 1


CHARLOTTE - Panthers head coach Ron Rivera doesn't want to place any undue pressure on No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, one of the reasons he hesitated even Thursday night before naming Newton as his Week 1 starter.

Newton, however, will continue to put pressure on himself.

"That's just another reason for me to continue to get better," Newton said following Rivera's announcement. "My big thing now is knowing what I'm supposed to do and getting the trust of everybody on this team."

Rivera expressed excitement over starting his first season as a head coach with Newton under center, but he also preached patience and the need for perspective.

"I want to make this clear again that we didn't draft Cam to be the savior," Rivera said. "We have to realize and recognize that we as a football team have to continue to grow. It's not just about him. It's about the rest of us growing within our systems.

"We have an offense, a defense and a special teams scheme that we have to learn. Every player, all 53 guys, have to learn that."

Steve Smith, the Panthers' top receiver, said he's been encouraged by what he's seen from Newton so far.

"Like everybody on a new job, you have your peaks and your valleys, but overall he's done a great job," Smith said. "It's a learning process for everybody, and he'll continue to get better. He has the ability to get better and he also has the work ethic. It should be fun to watch."

While it had become obvious even before Thursday's preseason finale that Newton would start Sept. 11 at the Arizona Cardinals, the plan behind Newton isn't as obvious. Newton had been battling second-year pro Jimmy Clausen for the starting job, but now Clausen is competing with veteran Derek Anderson to be Newton's backup.

Anderson got an extended look Thursday against the Steelers and looked the part. Playing in the offensive system that helped him reach the Pro Bowl four years ago in Cleveland, Anderson completed 11-of-19 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.


Clausen got five series just like Anderson did not direct any scoring drives, connecting on 7-of-17 passes for 87 yards and an interception.

"The biggest thing was we were looking at what would be our best possibility as backup," Rivera said. "Derek is a guy who doesn't get a lot of reps in this offense, but at the same time if something were to happen he's a guy who probably could help us because he doesn't need a lot of reps in this offense."

Aside from some of the wrinkles added by offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski since they teamed up in Cleveland, Anderson said he feels comfortable in the offense.

Anderson hit running back Mike Goodson for a 38-yard gain and wide receiver David Clowney for a 41-yard touchdown in the first half, then he hooked up with wide receiver Brandon LaFell for a 45-yard completion in the second half.

"He's hitting us in open seams and getting it to the right person," LaFell said. "He was a Pro Bowler a couple of years back, and he was a Pro Bowler in this offense. He knows the offense like the back of his hand, and out there in practice, he looks nice."

Back at practice come Monday, though, Newton will be the one taking the majority of the reps, preparing for his first NFL game that counts.

"It doesn't stop here. I can't just sit back and say that I've arrived because we have a long way to go," Newton said. "I can't take this opportunity for granted. I could be here today and gone tomorrow."

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