Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

Panthers QB Cam Newton insists ankle won’t dampen his intensity jperson@charlotteobserver.comDecember 26, 2013 

This week marks the second time during Cam Newton’s professional career that he has been on an injury report.

But the quarterback said Thursday his ankle injury isn’t even worth writing about.

“How it feels right now, it won’t even make for enough ink for a story,” Newton said. “Whether it’s feeling great right now, feeling bad right now, come Sunday it will be at high-octane performance.”

Newton, who is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, injured his ankle last weekend during the 17-13 win against New Orleans, calling the injury a “nicked” ankle while coach Ron Rivera said he tweaked it. He walked gingerly after the game inside the locker room, and he has received treatment for the injury throughout the week.

He participated fully in Thursday’s practice, though he admitted he’s not at 100 percent entering the regular-season finale at Atlanta.

“It’s a day-to-day process, and I’m trying to get it healed up and mended up and be 100 percent come game day,” Newton said.

When asked if it would affect his mobility, he said it shouldn’t, and it also wouldn’t affect his mentality.

Newton’s only other injury report appearance came during his 2011 rookie season when he had soreness in his shoulder. The Panthers added him to the injury report late in the week as probable.

Johnson looking to get going: In three games since returning from a sprained knee, defensive end Charles Johnson has made six tackles and shared a sack against New Orleans’ Drew Brees that resulted in no lost yardage.

Johnson, injured when New England right tackle Marcus Cannon leg-whipped during a Monday night game Nov. 18, said his right knee remains less than 100 percent but is getting stronger.

“That’s not an excuse for me not to be playing the way that I play. So I’m not using that as an excuse at all,” Johnson said. “I’m steady trying to grind, steady trying to help my team out the best way I can.”

Rivera said Johnson’s conditioning has been more of a factor than the knee. In addition to the two weeks he missed, Johnson spent a third trying to get ready to play Dec. 8 at New Orleans, Rivera said.

“He’s played well at times,” Rivera said. “Now it’s time for him to play consistently well.”

Johnson, a Georgia native, collected a team-record 3.5 sacks in the 30-28 loss Sept. 30, 2012 at Atlanta. Rivera expects him to have another big game at the Georgia Dome, where Johnson played in high school in the state playoffs and at college in the SEC championship game and the Sugar Bowl when the 2006 game was held in Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s just a hype game, going back home,” Johnson said. “Anybody would be hype about going back home and playing in front of their people.”

Spoiler alert: A victory Sunday for the Falcons would mean sending tight end Tony Gonzalez out with a win, but it also would mean potentially spoiling the Panthers’ playoff picture.

Atlanta, Carolina’s NFC South rival, could send the Panthers from a top-two seed to a wild-card spot, making them go on the road in the playoffs as opposed to getting a first-round bye and at least one home game.

Wide receiver Roddy White said both are motivating factors.

“We all want Tony to win, this is going to be his last game, so we want to go out there with a victory for Tony,” White said during a teleconference. “We’ll be playing at home, so everybody will be excited. Then we just get to shake up the bracket in the playoffs, so that will also be a good thing. We’ll be excited to go out there and play and shake up some things in the NFC.

“They’ve handled business on their home field and they’ve beaten us twice in a row. So, we’ve got to stop this winning streak that they have against us. So it’ll be really good. The end of the season, and hopefully send those guys on the road.”

The Panthers won their Nov. 3 contest against Atlanta 34-10, and last season the Panthers played the spoiler to the Falcons. Atlanta entered with an 11-1 record and left after a 30-20 loss at Bank of America Stadium.

But those two games aren’t reflective of Carolina’s recent history with the Falcons. The Panthers have lost seven of the past 10 in the series and haven’t won at the Georgia Dome since sept. 3, 2007.

But the 11-4 Panthers aren’t taking the 4-11 Falcons lightly.

“It’s a big game for this just like it’s a big game for us,” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said. “They don’t want to stop playing and have that message spread about you that you’re a quitter and you’re a team that decided to go home. And then you know it’s (Gonzalez’s) last game.

“He’s a tight end to me, a Hall of Famer to you. I’m a player. They’re going to come out in full effect with all they got so we’re going to treat them like they’re any other team.”

White said he and his teammates signed up to play 16 games this season, and they aren’t packing it up a game early to do the Panthers any favors just like they didn’t in Monday’s last-minute loss at San Francisco.

“I would never expect a Mike Smith-coached team to do that,” Rivera said. “So I expected them to play the way they did (against San Francisco) and I expect them to come out and play the same way against us.”

Post-holiday practice: A day after getting Christmas off, the Panthers resumed preparations for the Falcons with a two-hour practice Thursday. Rivera though his team’s focus was “outstanding.”

Three starters sat out with injuries – receiver Steve Smith (knee), running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) and defensive tackle Colin Cole. None is expected to play Sunday, although Rivera said the team would continue to monitor the players’ progress.

Smith hasn’t missed a game since the 2010 finale at Atlanta, when he was sidelined with a calf strain. Rivera said the reps among receivers Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon would be shared based on personnel groupings and matchups.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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