Panthers let Cam Newton call plays during practice

AP

Panthers coach Ron Rivera insists his offense isn’t behind — even though they’ve been without quarterback Cam Newton all offseason and first-rounder Christian McCaffrey until Thursday’s final day of minicamp.

But to make sure Newton was keeping up while recovering from shoulder surgery (he’s expected to start throwing soon, perhaps as soon as next week), the Panthers let their quarterback take the microphone from offensive coordinator Mike Shula and call the plays during Thursday’s practice.

“He said, “I’m not sure I like doing this,'” Rivera said with a laugh of Newton’s extra responsibility.

It’s actually good practice for Newton, since they’re installing a lot of new stuff, including plays to take advantage of McCaffrey’s unique set of skills. They worked on some of those plays Thursday, though Rivera dropped in a cautionary “I hope nobody tweeted about that.” Realistically, the Panthers have been talking about ways to use McCaffrey’s abilities as a runner and receiver since the moment they drafted him, so the things they’re doing aren’t necessarily unique concepts.

But without him for the majority of OTAs (because Stanford’s on the quarter system and that’s somehow important to a guy who withdrew from school months ago), and without Newton throwing, the Panthers are taking it on faith that their offense is going to be able to evolve.

Rivera said they installed all the things with Derek Anderson and Fozzy Whittaker that they’ll do in six weeks with Newton and McCaffrey, declaring “we’re in a good place right now” offensively.

The hope is that when their regular parts return, the guys who haven’t been running them will make a difference for a team that went flat last year.