August 21, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers coach Ron Rivera is chomping at the bit to get his full contingent of offensive players on the football field.

That might just happen this week.

Quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Curtis Samuel, the team's rookie second-round draft pick, are on pace to play Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars after missing the first two preseason games rehabbing from injuries. Two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalli also practiced Monday after sitting out two games with a shoulder injury and could play.

Newton amped up his workload at practice Monday, participating in every team drill as he recovers from soreness in his throwing shoulder.

''The big key for us will be how he feels (Tuesday) morning, just to make sure there is nothing sore or tight,'' Rivera said. ''But he looked really good.''

Newton participated in the first five practices of training camp following offseason surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. But he developed soreness on the sixth day and it took nearly two weeks before he started throwing in team drills again.

Now, the former league MVP is feeling the impact of that layoff.

''The thing he told me (after practice) is he just still feels like his timing is off and he's a little slow with his decision making,'' Rivera said. ''It will be, with him, about the reps. As long as he's getting quality reps and we're not overusing him, I think he's going to be fine.''

The Panthers have been careful about rushing the 2015 league MVP back on the field, knowing that after six years he's quite comfortable in the system.

Carolina would like to get Samuel, a speedy receiver who excelled at Ohio State, initiated into the system as soon as possible. Samuel participated in team drills Monday for the first time since the start of training camp following a battle with a hamstring injury.

''I can't say it's been frustrating. I want to be out there, but I have learned so much just being in the playbook and studying little things,'' Samuel said. ''I didn't want this injury to happen but I feel like there were good things that came out of this injury.''

While backup running back Christian McCaffrey has been stellar in the preseason showing big- play capability, the Panthers struggled early on in a 34-27 preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. With Derek Anderson under center the Panthers turned the ball over twice in the first five plays and gained no yards, falling behind 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Nonetheless, McCaffrey had a big day in limited action playing behind starter Jonathan Stewart, including a 17-yard touchdown run.

Now the Panthers are hoping Samuel can bring added explosiveness to the offense.

''We want to be smart with him,'' Rivera said of Samuel. ''We don't want to put him in a situation where he goes from zero to 50 right away.''

Rivera said if Samuel has a good day of practice on Tuesday the team will consider playing him against the Jaguars.

That would bring the Panthers one step closer to Rivera's goal of getting a chance to see all of the team's offensive pieces on the field.

''I'm very anxious to see what that group can do together on the football field,'' Rivera said. ''This is just a little microcosm of it. You can't simulate the game speed. So the biggest thing is getting them all out there. Hopefully, if we can have them this week and ready to come out we'll see what happens there.''

Said tight end Greg Olsen: ''It would be nice to get out full squad back and start game planning and put some ideas out there that we are going to use moving forward.''

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