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Cam Newton to start; Greg Hardy absent from practice

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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera indicated after the team's Week 1 win that Cam Newton should return to the field for the team's home opener Sunday against the Detroit Lions. On Wednesday, we got proof.

Newton was in full pads for the start of practice, indicating that all systems are go as he returns from his rib injury. Newton missed practice last Wednesday and was limited throughout the week. He wound up serving as the most well-covered cheerleader in franchise history.

Newton's return to the lineup helps make the most interesting early game on Sunday's schedule. It matches two former No. 1 overall picks at quarterback, and two teams that looked excellent in their openers. Detroit's dismantling of the New York Giants was perhaps the most complete performance by any team last week. Matthew Stafford mixed in his usual spectacular plays without any of his usual mental mishaps. The Lions defense held the Giants under 200 yards, only the third time since 2005 any Lions defense pulled that off.

We'll be interested to see how the Panthers' offense looks without the threat of Newton running as much. The team has a completely revamped offensive line and wants to make sure Newton doesn't get hurt again. That's a recipe for growing pains.

Defensive end Greg Hardy was also absent from practice because of a "personal day" according to coach Ron Rivera. The Charlotte Observer reports Hardy had an excused absence in order to attend a meeting with an attorney. Hardy was arrested on charges of assault on a female and communicating threats on May 13. Rivera indicated Hardy will return to practice Thursday and anticipates that Hardy will play Sunday. 

The latest "Around The NFL Podcast" makes some bold predictions about the 2014 season and backs them up by putting some sandwiches on the line.

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