Panthers starters to play half vs. Patriots

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers will play their starters in the first half of Friday night's exhibition game at New England, coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday.

That includes quarterback Cam Newton as long as he's not under a tremendous amount of pass-rush pressure.

Typically teams play the starters into the third quarter in the third preseason game, but Rivera adjusted that because Carolina is on a short week after playing Sunday night against Kansas City.

Rivera hopes to get the starters 30 to 35 snaps on both sides of the ball.

"We'll probably play a normal amount this week as opposed to playing long, long with the first group," he said. "They're still going to get some good reps, some quality reps. I hope we can get a two-minute drill in the first half as well."

Among the starters not expected to play are defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), right tackle Nate Chandler (knee), strong safety Roman Harper (turf toe) and outside linebacker Chase Blackburn (back).

Rookie right guard Trai Turner (groin) also is doubtful. He will be evaluated on Thursday. If he doesn't play, Chris Scott will take his place. Garry Williams will replace Chandler.

Rivera said none of the injuries appears serious. He said Blackburn basically has been "flat on his back" dealing with back pain but insisted it's not something that would require surgery.

Regarding the decision to trade running back Kenjon Barner to the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional seventh-round pick, Rivera does not plan to fill that roster spot with cuts to 75 players coming next week. Barner needs to be on Philadelphia's 46-man roster for at least four games for Carolina to get the draft pick.

Undrafted rookie Philly Brown and cornerback Antoine Cason appear to be the top candidates to replace Barner as a punt returner.

Rivera said the move was a win-win for both teams in that it cleared the way for running backs Fozzy Whittaker and/or Darrin Reaves to make the Carolina roster and reunited Barner with his former Oregon coach, Chip Kelly, in Philadelphia.