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Banged-up Cam Newton says he's 'on pace' to start

The Cam Newton watch continues.

After missing Wednesday's practice with rib soreness, the Carolina Panthers quarterback was limited during Thursday's session and didn't throw a pass during the portion of practice open to the media.

Newton told reporters that he wasn't full-go but remains "on pace" to play in Sunday's regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Coach Ron Rivera subsequently called his starting passer a game-time decision, saying: "Cam wants to play, but we have to be smart. ... This is a marathon, not a sprint."

The fourth-year passer has never missed an NFL start but acknowledged that he won't put his team at risk by playing before he's ready. We might not have our answer until shortly before Sunday's 4:25 ET kickoff.

Following offseason ankle surgery, Newton wasn't the same passer during the preseason, showing limited mobility behind an offensive line with new starters at four different positions.

It's a positive sign that Newton took the field Thursday, but after what we saw from Gerald McCoy and the Bucs' defensive line this August, a less-than-healthy Newton is a pressing concern for last year's NFC South upstarts.

UPDATE: NFL Media's Jeff Darlington reported that Newton was throwing passes at Friday's practice.

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