SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Cam Newton’s return to game action will have to wait.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly will not play in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Bears at Soldier Field, adding he’s being extra cautious with both players.
Newton is working his way back into form after having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January, while Kuechly missed time last week after he got “rolled up on” during practice. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker wouldn’t disclose the exact nature of the injury.
The 30-year-old Newton hasn’t played a game since Dec. 17 and has been held out of some team drills during training camp as trainers aim to make prevent his right shoulder from becoming fatigued.
”Everything we do with Cam has been mapped out,” Rivera said Tuesday. “... So again, we just go through the next step of the process.”
Kyle Allen will get the start at quarterback against the Bears, while rookie third-round draft pick Will Grier from West Virginia and Taylor Heinicke are also expected to see playing time.
”This game, there really isn’t much to this one,” Rivera said. “And there are a lot of things that we want to see from the young guys and by doing that we give Kyle an opportunity right off the bat.”
Rivera is particularly anxious to see Allen.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Allen went undrafted last year, but is viewed by the Panthers staff as an intriguing prospect with the build and arm strength of an NFL quarterback. He took advantage of his opportunity last season, leading the Panthers to a surprising 33-14 road win against the Saints in his only start in Week 17. Although the Saints had already clinched a playoff spot, coach Sean Payton played all of his healthy defensive starters.
Allen said that game has given him confidence that he can play at the NFL level.
”You have to experience the highs and the lows to really find yourself and find that even-keeled personality,” Allen said. “And I think over the years, I’ve experienced those lows and I’ve experienced those highs, and now I understand how to stay even through all that stuff. Because that’s what you need to do, especially at the quarterback position.”
Jermaine Carter gets the start for Kuechly on defense.
Kuechly returned to full practice this week after missing time last week at training camp. Kuechly said Tuesday that he got hit on the side during practice, but added that “everything is fine.”
The seven-year NFL veteran likes to play in the preseason, joking that “it helps me remember how to play football.”
”You can’t tackle people out here (at practice) and there is a big difference between running by a guy and tagging off and actually tackling someone,” Kuechly said. “You have to do it like once or twice to get the feel for it. You need to get one tackle inside and one in space.”
Rivera also said running back Jordan Scarlett, the team’s fifth-round choice, will not play against the Bears either because of a back injury. Rivera said if it was the regular season Scarlett would play, but said the team is being cautious because they don’t want him to have another setback.