I wrote my column today on why the Panthers should make rookie quarterback Cam Newton their starter in the season opener.
Coach Ron Rivera edged in that direction Sunday afternoon without going all the way, saying Newton will start and play the first three quarters in the Panthers' third exhibition -- Thursday night at Cincinnati. Jimmy Clausen will likely play all or most of the fourth quarter.
In other words, if Newton doesn't mess things up too badly, he's the starter from here on out. But Rivera isn't saying that yet -- he's hedging a little, which is probably smart given that he doesn't have to make this decision yet. The Panthers will use this week as a dress rehearsal for a real game -- actually game-planning for Cincinnati, which they haven't done in the first two preseason games.
Rivera said Sunday that Newton was making good decisions and that his mechanics had improved greatly from the first day of practice but that he needed more "consistency." Very true. In about 4 quarters of play over two preseason games, Newton has yet to lead the offense to a touchdown or convert on a single third down.
Newton wasn't available after the practice to talk to reporters about Rivera's decision.