Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said Friday that "we feel very confident" that Newton will be able to start Sunday's game against the visiting Cleveland Browns. Newton is officially listed as probable for the game, and Rivera said he would know by Saturday if Newton was in a position to start.
"Right now, everything is pointing in the right direction,” Rivera said. “The reason I haven't said anything [definitive] is because of that one big thing — waiting for doctors to tell me they feel good about it.”
Rivera did express some concern at making sure Newton stays protected in the pocket against the Browns. Newton, who told reporters Thursday he was pain-free, has been sacked 36 times in 12 games.
Newton suffered two fractures to the transverse process of his back in an auto accident not far from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 9. Witnesses said the truck he was driving flipped several times before coming to rest on its roof. He was hospitalized overnight as a precaution.
Newton missed last week's game -- a 19-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton, 25, is in his fourth season with the Panthers. He has passed for 2,812 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. The two-time Pro Bowler has also rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns for the 5-8-1 Panthers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.