CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Buffalo Bills missed out on facing two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton on Friday night.
Newton, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, sat out the game as a precaution for the Carolina Panthers. He had surgery on his left ankle in the offseason and has been experiencing some soreness in it during the first two weeks of training camp. Newton was limited in practice Wednesday and did very little on Thursday.
“It’s like a thump from your mom, when you said something that you weren’t supposed to, she’ll thump you dead in your ear or on your head,” Newton told reporters Thursday. “It’ll hurt for that little second, but it’ll go away after two, three minutes. It’s a reminder that, hey, you better check yourself.”
Newton is 25-23 as a starter but has won 17 of his last 22 starts. Taking Newton’s place was Derek Anderson, who is entering his fourth year as Newton’s backup. He’s 18-27 as a starter in eight NFL seasons. Anderson was the starter for Cleveland in the Bills’ infamous 6-3 loss to the Browns in 2009. Anderson got the win despite going 2 of 17 for 23 yards in the game.
Bills lineup notes:
Chris Hogan played in the slot in place of Robert Woods again with the starters. Mike Williams started outside with Sammy Watkins at receiver. For most of the second and third drives, it was Woods and Watkins outside, with Hogan in the slot.
Kraig Urbik started at right guard, but rookie guard Cyril Richardson filled Urbik’s spot on the second drive. Richardson got beat up the middle on the first play of the march, which caused a 5-yard sack of EJ Manuel.
Bills sitting out were cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safeties Kenny Ladler and Derek Brim, and tackles Cordy Glenn and Edawn Coughman.
Corey Graham took McKelvin’s starting corner spot. Nickell Robey took the starting punt-return duty. Duke Williams started at safety in place of Da’Norris Searcy. Defensive tackle Landon Cohen, who played well against the Giants last week, moved up to the second string, ahead of Stefan Charles.
Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, opened in 1996, is undergoing a $125 million renovation project, most of which is public money.
The first $65 million of the work was done this offseason and includes new escalators, new ribbon boards around the upper deck, a new sound system and two massive video boards on the top of the ends of the upper deck. The video boards are 11,000 square feet, replacing scoreboards that were 2,400 square feet.
The stadium seats 73,778.
Besides Newton, the Panthers were without two of their top defensive starters. Defensive end Charles Johnson was out with a sore hamstring. Strong safety Roman Harper sat with a toe injury. Johnson was replaced by third-year veteran Frank Alexander. Other notables sitting out were kicker Graham Gano and No. 2 running back Jonathan Stewart.
The Bills are offering season-ticket holders the option of renting seat-cushions for the season at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The cost: $50.
It’s an amenity a few other teams, including the Tennessee Titans, have adopted. The cushions are permanently installed for the season by a company, IMG Seating, which also has deals with dozens of colleges.
Even though the Panthers’ starters saw only a cameo appearance, one Panther had motivation to start off strong. Byron Bell takes over as the starting left tackle this season, shifting from right tackle. Longtime left tackle Jordan Gross retired after last season. Bell, a former undrafted fourth-year pro, had one of his worst NFL games in Buffalo last year. He gave up 3½ of the 4½ sacks Mario Williams bagged in the game.
“I feel like this is a good time for me to really showcase my talents and let people know that I’m for real,” Bell said this week.
The Bills practice at 6 tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John Fisher College. They are off Monday and practice at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Then they leave Tuesday afternoon for Latrobe, Pa., for two days of sessions with the Pittsburgh Steelers.