In switch, Newton is backup

jperson@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 25, 2014 

— Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is playing for Colts coach Chuck Pagano in the Pro Bowl and was the first quarterback taken by “alumni captain” Deion Sanders in Wednesday’s draft.

So it’s not surprising Pagano said Luck would start Sunday’s game – except that Pagano and Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who is working with Jerry Rice’s squad, had agreed they would set up their depth charts based on the final voting results, according to Rivera.

Among the three quarterbacks on the Pagano/Sanders team, the Panthers’ Cam Newton finished with the most combined votes in the balloting by fans, players and coaches. Luck was second, and Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles was third.

“We talked about it prior to this,” Rivera said Saturday. “He asked and I asked and we both said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just start them according to votes so there’s no hurt feelings?’ 

This is the first year the Pro Bowl has used an unconferenced format. In the former AFC-versus-NFC setup, starters were determined based on voting, NFL spokesman Jon Zimmer said.

League officials in Hawaii expected Newton to start based on their initial conversations with coaches. A league source said Pagano and Sanders decided Saturday morning to start Luck because he was the first quarterback drafted. Although Luck will start, Pagano said Newton and Foles would share the workload.

“We just want to make sure everybody gets enough snaps and enough touches and enjoys the experience, enjoys the game,” Pagano said. “We’ve got three quarterbacks. We’ll split it up evenly with reps.”

Newton said early in the week he didn’t care if he started, while Luck hinted at a possible trick play by saying maybe he and Newton would be on the field at the same time.

Rivera said Saints quarterback Drew Brees would start for Rice’s team. Brees was the second-highest offensive vote-getter in the fan balloting behind Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who is playing in next weekend’s Super Bowl.

Kraken taking Hawaii by storm: Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy used a marker to draw a line through his last name on the back of his practice jersey and replace it with “Kraken,” the mythological sea beast that is Hardy’s alter-ego.

Hardy also wrote “Say something” on the back of his shirt for any media members or players who weren’t familiar with his nickname.

“People were asking questions and were kind of rude. So I had to make sure nobody had a problem with me putting it on there,” Hardy said. “If you really want to know, come ask me.”

Hardy, who will become a free agent in March and is seeking a deal commensurate with his standing as one of the league’s best pass-rushers, indicated money will be a motivating factor in his first Pro Bowl, as well.

Members of the winning team receive $53,000, while players on the losing squad get $26,000.

“I’m going to try the best I can to get that 53,” Hardy said. “You know me.”

No happy returns: Minnesota Vikings kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, the rookie from Rock Hill who was added to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist, didn’t realize there would be no kickoffs in the game until recently.

“And it hurt me to my heart,” Patterson said. “That’s my specialty, that’s something I love to do. But they’ve got me on punt return. Maybe I’ll play a little receiver, too.”

Patterson led the league with 43 returns for 1,393 yards and two touchdowns, including a 109-yarder that tied a record for the longest scoring play in league history. But he’ll have to find another way to make an impact Sunday.

Patterson has been getting tips this week from Sanders, the Hall of Famer and one of the best punt returners in NFL history.

“He told me you’ve got to be a dog out there,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to go attack the ball.”

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

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