CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Teams generally use the last game of the preseason to determine who will earn those final few, precious roster spots.
But this year, all eyes remain on Cam Newton. Is his shoulder finally healthy? Will he be rusty heading into the regular season? Both are questions that likely won’t be answered until week one, or beyond.
Ron Rivera says Newton and many of the starters will be a game time decision Thursday in the team's final preseason game against Pittsburgh.
“We’re going to have our guys warmed up and ready to roll, and we’ll see what happens on Thursday,” Rivera said.
Newton was limited to one series, and just two throws against Jacksonville last week. The offense as a whole looked sharp, but right now it’s hard to predict how Newton will perform when it counts.
“He’s still taking steps,” Rivera said. “You really won’t know until the opener, and that’s just the way it is.”
A week before the opener, Rivera and the front office have some tough decisions to make on the final roster.
“There’s some really good competition at wide receiver and on the defensive line, defensive end in particular,” Rivera said.
Because of the depth at those positions and others, the number of players the Panthers plan to keep at each spot is still a fluid situation.
“We’re vacillating between, ‘this position is three. This position is four, and no, this position is three and this position is two.' We’re not set on any numbers as much as we’re trying to make sure we keep the best 53 players.”
The Panthers host the Steelers Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. for their final game of the preseason. By Saturday at 4:00 p.m. the team must have its roster trimmed to 53 players. Then it will be time to turn the attention to week one in San Francisco.