It was less than a week ago when Panther quarterback Cam Newton said there was "no doubt" in his mind that he would start Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
Well, there's some doubt now.
I still think Newton will ultimately play on Sunday in the season opener at Tampa, but Wednesday was an unusual day for the quarterback. He didn't participate in practice for Carolina and was the only player listed on the team's injury report. Coach Ron Rivera said Newton was "sore" due to the fractured ribs he suffered in the New England exhibition Aug.22 when he took a knee to the back after scrambling.
Rivera said he was still "optimistic" that Newton would play Sunday, but obviously the circumstances aren't ideal (and the coach added about his prediction that "I've been wrong before.")
Wednesday is a big installation day for NFL teams who play Sunday, with all the tweaks for the offense that week being installed. Newton missed that, although Rivera noted the Panthers are "ahead of the game" on their game-planning because they had two extra days (Saturday and Monday) to work on it.
Newton has never missed a start in his first three seasons with Carolina. I don't think he will miss this one -- quarterbacks have played with fractured ribs before and they will again. But second-team quarterback Derek Anderson is preparing like he will play, as he always does. Anderson is a capable backup, especially when throwing the ball, but he can't escape tacklers like Newton can.
What also was odd about Wednesday is that Newton wasn't available to talk to reporters. NFL players are supposed to be available at least once during a game week. Most quarterbacks pick a particular day to be interviewed during the week -- for Newton, it has always been Wednesday. But the Panthers instead had him do some more rehabbing during the time he generally is interviewed, with the understanding he will instead be made available to answer questions Thursday afternoon.
All of it was a bit odd. But I still think Newton plays.