Healthy Newton, Panthers host NFC champion Rams

Questions had arisen regarding Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's health going into the season opener.

The opponent is the Los Angeles Rams, who seem to have put to rest any quarterback quizzes for a while with Jared Goff signing an extension on Tuesday.

The two teams meet Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

The Rams are the reigning NFC champions, coming off a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. They've moved on from that.

"We're focused on this year," coach Sean McVay said. "I think our guys have done a great job of having that singular focus on just producing in the present."

Newton sustained a sprained foot during a brief stint in Carolina's third preseason game Aug. 22, but he wasn't on the team's first injury report on Wednesday. Coach Ron Rivera rebuffed speculation about Newton's status Wednesday.

"He's in great shape and mentally where he needs to be," Rivera said. "He's throwing the ball the way he needs to."

On the flip side, McVay kept his starters entirely out of game action in the preseason.

Los Angeles seems more stable at quarterback at least in terms of off-field news this week. Goff agreed to a four-year extension worth a reported $134 million that takes him through 2024.

Goff, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has thrown 60 touchdown passes in 31 games as a starter over the last two seasons, including 32 TDs last year.

"He's a special player," McVay said. "I think his production speaks for itself. ... Naturally, the quarterback is thrust into that leadership role."

Goff will have some newcomers around him on offense. Center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom are slated to make their first NFL starts, replacing John Sullivan (retired) and Rodger Saffold (left in free agency), respectively.

But running back Todd Gurley is back, and he'll be playing in his home state. He said the lack of action in preseason games isn't a concern.

"It's all good," said Gurley, who's entering his fifth season coming off consecutive first-team All-Pro campaigns.

"Todd is ready to play real football, and I think he's ready to go," McVay said. "It's not exclusive to Todd."

The Rams have won consecutive NFC West crowns.

With Newton's status somewhat in question the past couple of weeks, much of the attention fell on reserve quarterbacks. Kyle Allen and rookie Will Grier have been dubbed Newton's backups.

"We saw some really good things last year that gives us a lot of confidence in Kyle," Rivera said. "It's one of those things where you have to have confidence when you are on the field, the player has to have confidence."

The Panthers will introduce new kicker Joey Slye, who excelled in the preseason and landed the job when Graham Gano went on injured reserve.

"Just being here and getting the opportunity has been awesome, and I really appreciate the guys for trusting me, the coaches for trusting me," Slye said.

Carolina is trying to recover from a 7-9 season that came after beginning 2018 with a 6-2 record.

The Panthers have faced the defending NFC champion every year since 2008, excluding 2016, when they held the title themselves. They've won three of the past four meetings and four of the last six in such matchups.

This is the third time in Rivera's nine seasons that Carolina opens with a home game.

This will be the Rams' first visit to Charlotte since the franchise relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles. The Panthers have won five of the last six meetings.

--Field Level Media