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Friday's NFL: Panthers optimistic Cam Newton will be ready for opener

Associated Press
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton receives attention on the sideline after an injury in the first half of Thursday's preseason game.

Charlotte, N.C. — Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is “cautiously optimistic” Cam Newton will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular season opener against the Los Angeles Rams after the quarterback suffered a left mid-foot sprain in a preseason game.

Newton injured his foot in Carolina’s 10-3 loss Thursday night at New England on a sack.

Newton was trying to avoid pressure in the first quarter when he got tripped up and landed on the turf. He hobbled to the sideline and grimaced in pain on the bench before walking under his own power to the locker room.

The 2015 league MVP only played 11 plays and the Panthers gained just 29 yards. He was sacked twice.

Newton left the stadium in a walking boot and didn’t address the media before boarding the team bus. He was playing in his first game since Dec. 17.

Newton struggled through shoulder issues last season, which limited his ability to throw downfield as the year progressed. By the end of the season Newton could barely throw more than 20 yards and the team would sub him out on Hail Mary passes. He missed the final two games of the season and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January.

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He was held out of the first two preseason games because the Panthers didn’t want him to risk injury.

The Panthers don’t have much experience at quarterback behind Newton.

Kyle Allen is second on the depth at quarterback, rookie third-round draft pick Will Grier is third and Taylor Heinicke fourth. They have just two NFL regular season starts between them.

Carolina’s offense, which struggled in a Week 2 preseason loss to Buffalo, was abysmal against the Patriots, managing just 99 yards and seven first downs.

Newton played three series and was 4 of 6 for 30 yards and was sacked twice.

“Obviously, we hope that Cam is OK,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said after the game. “On top of that, offensively, we were not very good. We didn’t check any of our boxes as far as the third preseason game goes. We have been here before and we have had great third preseason games and bad third preseason games. I don’t know how much correlation they have to how your season goes.

“But you just can’t all of a sudden turn a switch and say we are going to be good now.”

Extra points

Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he supports receiver Kenny Stills’ involvement in the NFL protest movement but wants him to play better.

Flores’ comments came following Miami’s exhibition win over Jacksonville. The subject arose because Stills objected Monday to recent comments from Jay-Z about social activism by current and former NFL players, and the next day the Dolphins played more than half a dozen songs by the rapper at the start of practice.

Flores, who chooses the songs for practice, said he was trying to motivate Stills. Flores said he was surprised by extensive publicity about his Jay-Z practice playlist, and told the team the next day that he supports Stills and the player protest.

... Seahawks wide receiver David Moore will miss the start of the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury in practice. Coach Pete Carroll said the team is still figuring out the extent of the injury.

... Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan (Michigan) lost his appeal and will be suspended for the first four games of the season for using a performance-enhancing substance.