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Panthers QB Cam Newton returns to practice after missing season opener with rib injury

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he's feeling great and "absolutely" expects to start in Carolina's home opener Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

"It's great to be out there grinding with the entire team and not have any restraints," Newton said.

Newton fully participated in practice and threw the ball with good velocity — although coach Ron Rivera said the fourth-year quarterback's timing on his passes is still a bit of a concern.

Wearing a thick, protective flak jacket, Newton took the majority of reps with the first team offense as expected and didn't seem to have any problems throwing, Rivera said..

Rivera said Monday he expected Newton to start against the Lions on Sunday after missing the season opener at Tampa Bay with a rib injury — and he didn't waffle on that decision Wednesday.

"We don't expect him to have any setbacks," Rivera said.

PHOTO: Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton throws a pass during an NFL football practice in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he expected Newton to start against the Detroit Lions on Sunday after missing the season opener at Tampa Bay with a rib injury. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton throws a pass during an NFL football practice in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he expected Newton to start against the Detroit Lions on Sunday after missing the season opener at Tampa Bay with a rib injury. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Rivera said he's more confident that Newton would be able to handle a hit to the ribs this week.

Derek Anderson filled in for Newton and threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 20-14 in Week 1. Anderson returned to working with the second team unit on Wednesday.

It was the first missed start for Newton since coming into the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2011.

During a press conference Wednesday Newton refused to discuss anything related to last week's game, including the team's decision to hold him out or when he inexplicably ran on to the field during a timeout in street clothes to talk to his teammates in the huddle.

"My focus is on the Lions," Newton said. "We can't dwell on the past. It was a great to get a team win but I'm moving forward."


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PHOTO: Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, left, throws a pass over quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, right, during an NFL football practice in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he expected Newton to start against the Detroit Lions on Sunday after missing the season opener at Tampa Bay with a rib injury. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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