Panthers Newton to play at least a quarter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will play at least the first quarter of Sunday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

How much more depends on how he and a revamped offensive line are performing.

That's a slight twist from Tuesday when coach Ron Rivera said the starters -- not excluding Newton -- would play at least a half and possibly into the third quarter. The plan is to treat this like the third preseason game instead of the second because of a short week afterward.

For Newton, the goal is about 40 snaps. If he gets that in the first half, he's done. If he plays like he practiced on Thursday, he won't have any trouble getting to that.

"He looks good," Rivera said. "He's sharp. Made some really good throws today. He missed a couple near the end of practice, but early on he was really throwing it well."

While Newton was turned loose to run the read option in practice earlier this week, he won't against the Chiefs. Rivera wants to save that for the regular season and not risk a setback.

Rivera hopes Newton resists all temptations to run -- even if pressured. He's skeptical Newton has that much willpower if under a heavy rush.

"He can't help himself," Rivera said. "He loves to compete, and he wants to win. That is one of the things that is of concern, is that he'll get out there, and he may see something -- he may go from a three- to a seven[-step drop] -- and the next thing you know he's out there doing his thing. That's just who he is. He's very competitive. He wants to win."

Newton just wants to do something besides practice. And it's important for him to get as much playing time as he can with his new receivers and line.

"Very valuable," Newton said. "Anytime you get the opportunity to compete, whether you're on the field practicing or actual game action, it's always positive. At the end of the day, coach is always striving for us to excel in competing situations."

Newton also understands the value of being smart. He's talked with others who have come back from injuries.

"The thing that keeps coming back up is keep treating it, keep treating it," he said. "Treat it when it feels good, treat it when it feels bad. Don't be that guy that only treats it when it's nagging. Try to stay ahead of the pain, and that's what I've been doing."

Rivera ruled several players out already. Among them is free safety Roman Harper, who has turf toe.

Harper missed most of training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but Rivera doesn't sound concerned. And don't count on the Panthers bringing back Quintin Mikell, who finished last season as a starter after signing late in camp.

Mikell had offseason foot surgery and told Philly Sports Talk he is all but retired.

Rivera clarified that tight end Greg Olsen did not leave practice on Tuesday because of cramps, but because he was kicked in the calf. Olsen is expected to play against the Chiefs.

Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn tweaked his back and did not practice. Rivera hasn't ruled him out.

"He's a veteran guy, too, so we're not overly concerned about him missing any time," he said. "Hopefully it's just one of those things, and maybe a little bit of veteran time, too."