June 05, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton is almost ready to get back to work.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the six-year NFL veteran quarterback is ahead of schedule in his rehab from shoulder surgery and is expected to begin throwing next week at minicamp.

Newton will start by throwing on a side field away from team drills under the supervision of head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. He isn't expected to participate in team drills until the team reports to training camp in late July.

Newton has been at practice for all of the team's voluntary workouts, but has not yet thrown any passes since undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff on his right shoulder in late March.

''He's ahead of schedule,'' Rivera said following Monday's voluntary workout. ''We're not putting him ahead of schedule. He's doing all the band-work, all the stretching, all the rehab he's supposed to.''

Newton was not made available to talk to reporters on Monday.

''His rehab program is going very nicely,'' Rivera said. ''I'm excited about what he's doing. As we progress into next week, you guys will get a chance to see him.''

Newton injured his shoulder in Carolina's Week 14 win against the San Diego Chargers but continued to play the rest of the season. When asked why he continued to play his star QB rather than sit him out, Rivera responded by saying it was because Newton wanted to keep playing.

Newton finished with one of his least productive seasons of his career and the Panthers and failed to make the playoffs one year after reaching the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, starting cornerback James Bradberry will be in a cast for the next six weeks after fracturing his left wrist during practice Monday. However, the team said it has not ruled him out of participating in minicamp next week.

Bradberry, a first-round draft pick in 2016, landed awkwardly on the wrist while diving for an interception.

Rivera said he's not sure if veteran defensive end Julius Peppers or offensive lineman Michael Oher will participate in the three-day mandatory minicamp which begins June 13.

The Panthers are resting the 37-year-old Peppers while Oher remains in the concussion protocol.

''We are taking our time with him,'' Rivera said of Peppers. ''There is no reason to have a 16-year veteran out here. He comes in to get his workouts in and goes through all of the meetings. We just decided we are going to slow play it.''

Rivera said another reason the team is resting Peppers is because they want to give their young defensive ends more reps in practice.

As for Oher, Rivera said there is no change in his status.

He hasn't played since last September when he sustained a concussion three weeks in the 2016 season. The Panthers signed veteran free agent Matt Kalil in the offseason to play left tackle with the thought of moving Oher to right tackle. But with uncertainty surrounding Oher's concussion the Panthers drafted offensive tackle Taylor Moton from Western Michigan in the second round as a backup plan.

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