CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- How long Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton plays in Sunday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs will have more to do with how well his restructured offensive line plays than him.
Coach Ron Rivera reiterated after Friday's practice that he didn't want to do anything to put the first pick of the 2011 draft under pressure to reinjure the left ankle that was surgically repaired in March.
So if Newton finds himself under a lot of heat and forced to scramble, his time on the field likely won't last past the first quarter.
"If we're playing well, doing good things and the offensive line is shoring up, we'll continue with him into the second [quarter]," Rivera said. "If not, we've got to be smart about this and make a decision."
Newton hasn't missed a repetition this week. Although he has run the read-option package, he won't use it in the game. Rivera remains adamant that will be saved for the regular season.
Rivera said most of the starters will play the first half and possibly into the third quarter, particularly the offensive line that basically has four new starters. He is treating this like the third preseason game because the team has a short week afterward before playing at New England on Friday.
And again, Newton's playing time will be tied directly into his protection.
"Most certainly," Rivera said. "He's done some really good things and had some really good practices, so I'm excited to see him out on the football field."