CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton missed practice on Wednesday with a concussion, raising concerns about his availability for Monday night's division game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The league's reigning MVP remains in the concussion protocol, three days after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Deion Jones in the fourth quarter of a 48-33 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not address reporters and the team was not required to release an injury report, so there was no official update on Newton's status. Newton did not make an appearance in the locker room on Wednesday and did not speak to reporters.
Derek Anderson would start for Carolina if Newton can't play.
Anderson is 2-0 as a starter since joining the Panthers in 2011. Both victories came against the Buccaneers in 2014. Anderson declined comment, saying he was scheduled to address reporters on Thursday.
Third-string quarterback Joe Webb said he spoke to Newton on Wednesday.
"He was in good spirits," Webb said. "He wasn't down or nothing like that."
The struggling Panthers (1-3) are suddenly dealing with several injuries.
Left tackle Michael Oher did not practice after missing the Atlanta game with a concussion. Running back Jonathan Stewart, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, continued to work on the side with trainers. And offensive tackle Mike Remmers was given a day to rest. Remmers said he expects to play against Tampa Bay.
The good news for Carolina is the Buccaneers always seem to serve as the perfect elixir.
The Panthers have defeated their division rivals six straight times going back to 2013.
Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said the team has confidence in Anderson's ability to step in and win some games.
"We already know D.A. can come in and play," Benjamin said. "We have to keep the same mentality and the same confidence."
The 33-year-old Anderson relieved Newton in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss and led two touchdown drives to get the Panthers back in the game, throwing TD passes to Greg Olsen and Philly Brown.
However, the Panthers' defense was unable to keep the game tight, allowing a long TD pass to Julio Jones.
Anderson was forced to throw the ball on every play in the closing minutes and was picked off twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
"He did some pretty good things with the exception of the one he thought he was throwing away," Rivera said after the game.
"He made some good decisions, some really good reads. He handled himself well under the circumstances and got us down there in a position to score. Again, can't make mistakes — we made some mistakes and they capitalized on them."
Benjamin said playing with Anderson is a little different than Newton.
"D.A. is going to get it out quicker than Cam," Benjamin said. "We just have to be fast on our routes. We have to run our routes and beat them to the spot."
Benjamin said he doesn't think the Panthers are lacking confidence, but realizes the team is in need of a win if it hopes to catch the Falcons (3-1) and win a fourth straight NFC South title.
"When you are losing, your head starts sagging and you start getting down on yourself," Benjamin said. "So it would be a real good team win if we can beat them."
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