CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will start Sunday’s game at New Orleans barring a setback in the concussion protocol, coach Ron Rivera said Friday.
Newton still has to get final clearance from an independent physician, but that appears to be a formality after the reigning MVP was a full participant in practice the past two days.
Rivera said Newton is expected to meet with the independent physician Friday.
Running back Jonathan Stewart will also start after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury.
Those who won’t play are starting left tackle Michael Oher (concussion), cornerback James Bradberry (toe), cornerback Robert McClain (hamstring), defensive tackle Vernon Butler (ankle) and defensive tackle Paul Soliai (foot).
Newton missed his third career start on Monday night when the Panthers suffered a 17-14 loss to Tampa Bay that dropped their record to 1-4.
He threw five touchdown passes, including a game-winning 15-yarder to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 remaining, in last year’s 41-38 victory at New Orleans.
Over the last three games against the Saints (1-3), Newton has completed 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception.
Newton had declined all media requests this week.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said there will be no restrictions on Newton as a dual-threat quarterback.
“That’s his game,” Shula said on Thursday. “We will look at him and talk about it, but part of his game and what makes him so good is that.”
Newton has rushed for more yards (3,354) than any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2011. He already has 45 rushing touchdowns, an NFL career record for a quarterback.
Newton, built like a linebacker at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, also takes a lot of punishment. He has been hit while running, throwing or sacked 11.3 times per game this season, by far the highest rate in the NFL.
“That’s one thing about Cam Newton,” Rivera said. “We can call a play, and he can drop back and take off running on his own. We’re going to play our offense accordingly.”