WFT’s Ron Rivera, Cam Newton highlight reunion in Carolina

Ron Rivera ought to know how Cam Newton’s presence can create a big buzz.Already, the Washington Football Team’s visit to Carolina to take on the Panthers was ripe with storylines.Now Sunday afternoon’s game in Charlotte, N.C., has another layer of intrigue because Newton will be back for his first home game since rejoining the Panthers.”Every practice rep is starting to get us a little closer,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said of the offense clicking into gear. “They’re starting to build that chemistry.”Rivera spent nine seasons as the Panthers coach, going 76-63-1. He and Newton were at the forefront of the 2015 Carolina team that reached the Super Bowl.Newton is back, returning last week and playing a limited role in Carolina’s upset of the Arizona Cardinals.”Cam was brought here to help us win,” Rhule said. “He helped us win last week. … Now he has a full week worth of work.”He’s likely to be the starting quarterback as the Panthers (5-5) try to build on the momentum from that result.”We brought Cam here to play, there’s no doubt about that,” Rhule said. “We’ll get him up to speed as much as possible.”Still, the Panthers received a solid outing from P.J. Walker in his starting role. The quarterback shake-up came about because of an injury that sidelined an already struggling Sam Darnold.Newton is already credited with bringing a boost.”Just his energy, the swag he brings,” Panthers defensive back Donte Jackson said. “The upbeat energy. Everybody wants to go out there and have fun when you have a guy like that on your side.”So, it looks like the NFL version of homecoming. Newton is back. Rivera is stopping by, and there are more than a dozen staffers with the Washington team with Panthers connections. Eight Washington players are ex-Panthers.One of them is Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke. He’ll recognize some ex-teammates on the Carolina defense, which has been one of the top units in the NFL this season.

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