Cam Newton to make first start in return to Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Football Team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton will make his first start in his second stint with Carolina on Sunday against Washington and former Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

Coach Matt Rhule made it official on Friday after the 32-year-old quarterback got in a full week of practice working with the first team.

"He's really done a nice job learning the game plan for this week,'' Rhule said of Newton. "He's worked really hard. He's really a smart player. Really a smart quarterback.''

Newton signed a one-year contract eight days ago that will pay him up to $10 million to finish the season. He was in for eight plays in Sunday's 34-10 win at Arizona, scoring touchdowns on his first two snaps.

P.J. Walker started against the Cardinals after starting quarterback Sam Darnold was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Rhule said Walker would get some snaps on Sunday as well.

Rhule said this week hasn't been about Newton picking up the playbook, but learning a game plan that he and the rest of the offense is comfortable with.

"They'll figure out the right plays for him, right amount of plays for him,'' he said. "We'll have both guys ready. Game plan wise, we could see a myriad of different things happen.''

Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady have seen "no issues'' with Newton's arm strength, which was a concern when he was released by Carolina in 2020.

What they have seen in practice is the same energy Newton brought to Sunday's game.

"The energy is awesome,'' said Rhule, whose 5-5 team currently would be the seventh seed in the NFC playoffs. "I don't mean to ever diminish it. I just love the fact that he's on the practice field, he throws his last ball each period, turns and runs a lap and runs back. It's way more to me about the example being set.

"We all understand Cam is a force of nature almost in terms of the things he brings. But I don't want it to be all that people realize. What I see is a true professional that wants to win and puts the time in.''