Cam Newton one step from starting

We’ve already told you Carolina coach Ron Rivera stopped a little bit short of naming Cam Newton as his opening-day quarterback. Now, let's tell you what that means.

Take Rivera’s announcement that Newton will start next week’s final preseason game as another sign that the Panthers are ready to hand things off to the No. 1 overall draft pick.

“The big thing is to continue to see how he handles everything,’’ Rivera said. “We have to really study him and watch him. We have to make sure he's progressing in the right direction. This is a very sincere thing for us. We don't want to just say, 'Hey, you're the guy,' and walk away from it. At the same time, we want him to understand that he is working towards being our guy.’’

This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise because it’s nothing new. The Panthers have planned all along to try to have Newton ready to start the opener. He hasn’t been great in the preseason, but he hasn’t had any disastrous mistakes.

Besides, Jimmy Clausen hasn’t played any better and sat out Saturday’s practice with injuries to his knee and thigh. Derek Anderson, who never has been considered a candidate to start, worked with the second team Saturday.

Basically, it all comes down to this: As long as Newton doesn’t get hurt between now and the start of the regular season, he’ll be under center (and in the shotgun formation at times) on Sept. 11 when the Panthers open at Arizona.

Like Rivera said, the Panthers want Newton to continue working toward being their guy. Everything's not going to click on overnight. This may be a season-long process, but the Panthers are ready to take the good with the bad.