Panthers coach Ron Rivera edged closer to hitching his wagon to rookie quarterback Cam Newton Sunday afternoon, naming him the starter for this week's exhibition against Cincinnati but stopping short of saying the rookie had earned the No. 1 job for the regular-season opener Sept. 11 at Arizona.
"We're going to start Cam this Thursday against Cincinnati," said Rivera, who also started Newton three days ago in a 20-10 loss to Miami. "What it will do is give us an opportunity to see how he will handle the whole game experience and we'll go from there. ... We have to continue to evaluate the situation and the circumstances. We've only really gone through 3 1/2 or 4 weeks of training camp. To rush into a decision, I think, would be kind of absurd."
By declaring Newton the starter for the Panthers' most important game of the preseason, however, Rivera all but said the job is his to lose. If this were a 100-yard race to opening day, Newton has opened a 15-yard lead with 30 to go.