Ron Rivera: Teammates helped Cam Newton push through early rust

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Given the fact his quarterback threw two passes in the preseason, Panthers coach Ron Rivera wasn’t expecting a polished first outing.

But he was encouraged by what he saw, both from quarterback Cam Newton and the new pieces around him.

Via Bill Voth of the team’s official website, Rivera was willing to take the positives from a 23-3 win over the 49ers.

“The quarterback is obviously getting used to the timing. He missed some throws and he knows it,” Rivera said. “I had to talk him off the ledge, but he’s focusing in on what he needs to get done. The nice thing is all the other guys are rallying around him. They understand he’s a little rusty.

“He did some things very well, made a couple really good audibles. He’s making good reads. It’s just about getting comfortable and getting his rhythm.”

It took him nearly a half. He was 5-of-16 passing early, but a late first-half flurry (completing three passes to set up a field goal) and a perfect (6-of-6) second half left him with some things to be pleased with. It was Newton’s first game action since offseason shoulder surgery, other than his two preseason passes.

Newton got himself going with a screen pass to Christian McCaffrey for a first down just before halftime, and then hit regular targets Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. It’s probably what you expect, considering Newton’s layoff kept him from working through some of the offensive tweaks.

“I think we all took turns being just a little off,” Olsen said. “I just don’t think we really found our stride. We had our moments, but collectively I think we’ll be better as the year goes on.”

They ought to be with time, and with Newton getting enough reps to be comfortable. And with Newton hitting his last nine passes, it’s a start they’ll take while they work through it.