Rivera optimistic Newton will start; Panthers thin at CB

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton has been cleared from the NFL's concussion program and can play Sunday when Carolina visits New Orleans.

The team said Saturday in a short statement that Newton had passed the league's concussion protocol. Previously, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the quarterback and 2015 league MVP was expected to start against the Saints ''barring a setback.''

Newton participated fully in practice Friday, but still had to meet with an independent doctor before being cleared to play.

Newton hasn't spoken to reporters since suffering a concussion on Oct. 2 against the Falcons.

The Panthers are 1-4 and have lost three straight games.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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