With 'timing coming back,' Cam Newton remains on track

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CHARLOTTE -- Cam Newton continues to creep toward his 2017 debut.

The quarterback on Tuesday took part in every drill featuring the first-team offense for the second straight day, and even though much of the work was against a scout team defense, Newton appeared dialed in.

"I think you can see the timing coming back," head coach Ron Rivera said.

Newton completed passes Tuesday to typical targets like wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. But his most notable connection came in the red zone.

Newton's scoring pass to second-round wideout Curtis Samuel, who, like Newton, could make his preseason debut Thursday in Jacksonville, was what the Panthers hope is a small taste of what's ahead. 

"I am excited because (Thursday) will be an opportunity to see (Newton) out there with all the different players we brought in, all the different playmakers that we believe we have," Rivera said. "It should be fun."

Because they want to make sure Newton gets through the next couple of days without soreness or tightness in his surgically repaired shoulder, the Panthers aren't willing to guarantee he'll play against the Jaguars. And if Newton is out there, he won't play into the third quarter with most of the starters.

But what matters most is it whatever action Newton may get would be a key step toward facing the 49ers in Week 1. 

"As long as he's not tired or fatigued, we should be fine," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is after tomorrow morning and make a determination."

Health Watch

--The Panthers feel they dodged a bullet in regards to defensive end Daeshon Hall's left knee. There was worry when the third-round pick was taken off the field early in Monday's practice, but tests revealed it was only a contusion. Hall will return once the swelling goes down, and he's not yet been ruled out for Thursday night's game.

--Fellow rookie Corn Elder continues to make progress in his return from a patella stress fracture. The cornerback has been out of his knee brace for about two weeks now and Tuesday, he ran a handful of sprints on the side. Elder is three and a half weeks into a rehab that's expected to take four to six weeks. 

--Other players who didn't practice Tuesday: wide receivers Brenton Bersin (shoulder), Fred Ross (ankle) and Keyarris Garrett (leg); tight end Scott Simonson (hamstring); defensive tackles Vernon Butler (knee) and David Yankey (undisclosed); safety L.J. McCray (undisclosed); linebackers Jared Norris (undisclosed) and Jacobs (undisclosed); guards David Yankey (undisclosed) and Chris Scott (undisclosed).

--Guys who had vet days: safety Mike Adams, running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen, left tackle Matt Kalil, center Ryan Kalil, defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive ends Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson.

--Rivera wouldn't say if Ryan Kalil, who's coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, would make his preseason debut Thursday. There's really no reason to force anything with the 11-year veteran.

"Ryan's been progressing very nicely," Rivera said. "He's had a really good camp, but we've had to be really smart with that and keep an eye on it. What you don't want to do is put a guy out there who's fatigued at his position.

"It's a little different being a center as opposed to being a quarterback because every play you're taking shots. So we want to make sure he's ready to go when we do expose him."

A moment in the sun

Some around the stadium were still buzzing about the solar eclipse a day after players and staff gathered for a viewing on the Bank of America Stadium field.

The players actually almost didn't get to see it.

"As soon as we (finished practice), we're getting ready for meetings and everybody came up and said, 'Coach! The eclipse!' I said, 'What about the eclipse?' They said, 'It's about to happen!' I said, 'It is?'

"So we pushed everything back about 35 minutes. They went out there and enjoyed the eclipse."

So did Rivera, who dialed up some Bonnie Tyler:

"I walked out there and then I remembered about the song," Rivera said. "So I started playing the song and I caught a lot of grief for it.

"But it was entertaining. It was a nice little break for the guys, too."

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