- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Panthers are sounding less and less optimistic that Cam Newton will be ready for the team’s regular season opener Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Coach Ron Rivera said he will make a game-time decision on Newton’s availability after the fourth-year quarterback was limited in practice Thursday while recovering from fractured ribs.

Newton said he’s “on pace” to play and Rivera agreed.

However, neither Newton nor Rivera sounded as optimistic about Newton’s chances of playing as they did earlier in the week.

“We don’t want to put a guy out there who can’t protect himself or take a hit,” Rivera said. “We want to be smart about it.”

Rivera also emphasized the Panthers don’t want to risk further injury to Newton.

“It’s not just about game one,” Rivera said. “Let’s be realistic. (The season) is not a sprint, this is a marathon. You may not start as fast as you want, but at the same time you have to start smart.”

Newton addressed the media during a press conference Thursday after practice and talked up backup quarterback Derek Anderson and his teammates.

He also talked for the first time about the possibility of sitting out.

“I don’t want to ever put this team or myself in jeopardy that I’m just stressing to hurry up and get out there and I’m not able to be what makes me me,” Newton said.

Newton has never missed a game during his football career - at any level - due to injury.

“We’re not going to make a story out of that, because I am human,” Newton said. “We all understand our limits, we all know what we can and can’t do. Like I told coach, and I want to confirm it to everybody, I will not put this team at risk to hurt it by anything.”

Rivera said Newton did what was asked of him at practice on Thursday, but refused to say if the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback actually threw any passes.

Newton fractured his ribs Aug. 22 in a preseason game against New England.

Anderson, who has started 43 games during his NFL career, would start if Newton can’t play.

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