Panthers head coach Ron Rivera just announced after practice Sunday that rookie quarterback Cam Newton will start and play three quarters against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
Rivera did make sure to clarify that he had not officially named Newton the starter for the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals but this obviously gives him a huge leg up over Jimmy Clausen.
Newton started his first game of his career on Friday night against the Dolphins but struggled. Newton finished 7-14 and failed to orchestrate a scoring drive while playing the entire first half. The Panthers went on to lose the game 20-10.
— In another note, second year defensive end Greg Hardy returned to practice today after missing all of training camp due to injuries sustained after he wrecked his motorcycle. Rivera said that Hardy will start opposite Charles Johnson at defensive end when he is healthy. Eric Norwood had been starting in Hardy’s place.