Panthers QB Newton returns to practice, takes 1st-team reps

By Steve Reed, AP Sports Writer

Image result for cam newtonSource: MSN Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned to practice Wednesday and took reps with the first-team offense after missing Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay with a concussion.

Newton, wearing a helmet and a red No. 1 practice jersey, threw passes and joked with teammates in the huddle before taking snaps during the first 20 minutes of practice that were open to the media. Newton threw the ball around and jogged during the walk-through portion of practice.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has not said if he expects the league’s reigning MVP to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Rivera is expected to address the media later Wednesday.

Carolina (1-4) is marred in a three-game losing streak.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, also was at practice. However, left tackle Michael Oher (concussion), cornerback James Bradberry (toe) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (ankle) were still out.

Newton has struggled in his four starts this season, completing just 57.9 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions. His quarterback rating of 80.2 ranks 32nd in the league.

He has played extremely well in the past against the Saints.

Last season Newton completed 48 of 72 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception in two wins against New Orleans. He threw five touchdowns in a 41-38 win at the Superdome in 2015.

“We fully expect him to play and recognize the challenges when we do play against him,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “… His efficiency in the pocket and where’s he’s going with the ball, he has great command of the offense.”

Newton has only missed three starts during his six-year NFL career.

He was knocked out of the fourth quarter of Carolina’s Week 4 loss to the Atlanta Falcons when he slowed down on a 2-point conversion run and was hit near the goal line by linebacker Deion Jones.

If Newton is unable to play Sunday, the Panthers will again turn to Derek Anderson. The 33-year-old Anderson started against the Buccaneers and had three turnovers in a 17-4 loss, including a costly turnover on a first-and-2 at the Bucs 2-yard line in the fourth quarter.

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