Derek Anderson to start Sunday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson will get his second start of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay with starter Cam Newton recovering from injuries suffered in Tuesday's car crash.

Joe Webb, who was moved to wide receiver last month, is returning to quarterback and will be the backup for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game at Bank of America Stadium.

Newton suffered two small fractures in his lower back in a two-car crash near the stadium Tuesday. He was released from the hospital at 11:15 a.m. ET Wednesday. Police said he is not at fault for the accident.

"The most important thing about this whole week is the safety and health of one of my brothers," Anderson said. "He's been through a lot. If he could be out there, he'd be out there."

Anderson started the opener at Tampa Bay while Newton recovered from fractured ribs suffered during the preseason. Anderson completed 24 of 34 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-14 victory.

"One game I saw him play in person, he played like a starting quarterback," Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said.

Though only 4-8-1, the Panthers remain in the hunt in the NFC South. Atlanta and New Orleans are both 5-8.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it will be week to week with Newton but that for now the smart thing to do is prepare a week out. So the earliest Newton could return and play would be against Cleveland on Dec. 21.

"We're back to square one like we were this summer with the rib injury," Rivera said. "It's about what he tells the doctors, what the doctors observe. He's very tough-minded, a very tough-willed young man."

Newton will be at the team's facility Thursday to meet with the training staff on a rehab program.

Rivera said moving forward it will be all about pain tolerance for Newton, but the coach insisted he won't rush him back.

"If I have to do like I did against Tampa the first time, I won't expose him," he said.

Newton pleaded with Rivera to start in the opener against the Buccaneers, but the staff opted on the side of long-term health by sitting him.

Rivera said he first thought reports Newton had been involved in an accident were a hoax. But the more the team looked into the situation, he realized it was serious. He said Newton was fortunate not to be hurt more seriously.

Rivera said he visited Newton in the hospital Tuesday night and that the quarterback said he felt like he'd let the team down.

"He was down," Rivera said. "He had played very well obviously for us against New Orleans and was looking forward to the rest of the season."

Newton was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his four-touchdown (three passing, one running) performance against the Saints that helped Carolina end a six-game losing streak.

Rivera said Newton appeared to be in pain but conceded that with him it's hard to tell.

"He has a way of flashing that smile to let you know everything is going to be OK," Rivera said.

Rivera addressed the team early Wednesday morning then had trainer Ryan Vermillion explain the medical side of it.

Players were in shock when they first heard of the crash. Left tackle Byron Bell said he "dropped to my knees and began to pray."

Webb said it was like "somebody stabbed me in the heart."