Panthers’ Newton encouraged after rusty start to preseason debut

Starting quarterback Cam Newton led the Panthers to two touchdowns in five drives in his preseason debut.

Bob Leverone/AP

CHARLOTTE — In his first preseason game after having offseason ankle surgery, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was both happy and rather disgusted with his performance in his team’s 28-16 victory over Kansas City Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium.

Overall, Newton played five series and finished 4 of 9 for 65 passing yards. He was sacked twice, had an interception dropped, overthrew open receivers and dealt with plenty of pressure in his face, especially in the first three series, when the Panthers posted just one yard of total offense in three straight three-and-outs.

However, the final two series by Carolina saw it put two touchdowns on the board, easing the frustration that had generated from the previous three drives.

"The competitive nature in me is always trying to execute," Newton said. "It was kind of embarrassing for me to lead my offense out there and not have a first down. But when we did get things going it was fun to see, fun to sit back and watch."

In Newton’s final two series of the game, he was able to connect on passes of 25 and 26 yards after starting out just 1 for 5 with five yards. It was pretty evident he gained more and more confidence as the game progressed. For Newton, who is entering his fourth NFL season, it was just a matter of getting hit once or twice and getting comfortable with the speed of things.

"It felt good, but it didn’t start the way I wanted it to start," Newton said. "But when we did get going, that’s the positive thing. We put up 14 points on back-to-back drives and that’s the thing that is very encouraging from the game. When we go back tomorrow and watch the film, there’s some things that we automatically know we’re going to have to get better at.

"We’re going to need a great week of practice with a short week and I think we’re going to be up for it."

Even though Newton seemed to finally find his rhythm in the second quarter, the first quarter provided quite a bit of anxiety for fans, but especially for head coach Ron Rivera.

Newton was pressured from the get-go and was forced to scramble just for his own protection. He wound up being sacked twice.

"We’re always concerned about him because that’s who he is," Rivera said. "That’s what our concern was last week. We knew he would get out there and do what he does. He wants to win and will do what he can to win and will worry about (the injury) later."

Even with the offensive line breaking down and Newton doing a lot of running, Rivera said there wasn’t much thought to benching Newton despite him not being 100 percent. After all, Newton did not take a snap in the team’s preseason opener.

"We came out with a plan and we tried to stick to it," Rivera said. "In that last series, we were debating. We felt good about it so we let him stay in and as a result, he did the things we needed him to do this evening. Initially he was high a couple of times and indecisive. Once he settled in and started to move you saw him gain confidence and he made plays."

Newton said he never felt a twinge in the ankle that he had ligaments tightened back in March.

"This was the first time I actually ran on it," he said. "In practice, I’m always having a short whistle. Coach is always holding them back, which is understandable. There’s no holding back in game time. They’re trying to hurt me just like I’m trying to have bad intentions for the other team and execute and score touchdowns.

"For me, I’m taking it day in and day out, trying to get treatment on it to try to get it back to 100 percent."

But even without major discomfort, Newton said he could tell a difference from running around Sunday night to when he’s completely healthy.

"Well, there’s a big difference, just regaining confidence I had in my ankle," he said. "I know I had surgery, everyone knows I had surgery. It’s a constant build up. I haven’t pressed the throttle all the way down to the floor until (Sunday), trying to see how much I can do.

"It was kind of like a shock at first. It’s one thing where you’ve got to tell your mind that you’re not hurt. I’ve been treating it as much as possible and trying to get as much as I can to make it feel better, so when it’s out there you know it’s supposed to hurt and sometimes it does hurt, but it’s just like a temporary pain. It’s going to be up to me and the training staff to get me back and we’ll see what happens from there."