CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera talked last month about limiting Cam Newton's carries. Well, that hasn't happened.

That's because Newton is simply too darn dangerous with his legs.

The Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn has already run for nine touchdowns in 10 games this season, including two last week against the Detroit Lions. He's already shattered Vince Young's record for touchdown runs by a rookie quarterback and has set his sights on Steve Grogan's all-time record of 12 set in 1976.

Rivera talked about limiting Newton's carries during a press conference last month and reducing the chances of getting him injured, but the rookie's numbers haven't changed in recent weeks. In fact, they've only gotten better.

Now it seems Rivera is singing a different tune, resigned to the fact that limiting Newton's role on offense is counterproductive.

"You want the ball in your best player's hand, the guy that can make plays for you," Rivera said of Newton, who is second on the team in yards rushing with 411. "He's such a great athlete and got such great ability. You don't ever want to take away his ability to make plays."

And that's all good by Newton.

In fact, Newton said he's actually safer running the ball than staying in the pocket.

"I know this might sound crazy, but I feel more comfortable about protecting myself (outside of the pocket) than when I'm defenseless in the pocket," Newton said. "Inside the pocket, I don't see whose coming. Your body is vulnerable to hits, and you can't really brace if you want to get a completion.

"I can be more dangerous when I'm running, when I have my eyes on a swivel and am aware of my surroundings. Honestly, I take more hits in the pocket than I do outside the pocket."

More often than not when Newton does take a hit, it's the defender who gets the worst of it.

Many linebackers, safeties and even some defensive linemen have tried to bring down the 6-5, 248-pound Newton but bounced off his big frame like an 8-year-old trying to tackle his father. There have been times when Newton appeared to be in the grasp of a defender only to wiggle away and find running room.

That shouldn't come as a surprise.

Newton ran for 20 touchdowns his senior season at Auburn.

His second touchdown run on Sunday against the Lions was a thing of beauty. Newton changed the play at the line of scrimmage, moving into audible which called for a quarterback keeper.

The result was a perfectly executed 6-yard run.

"You can't do that every play because of the play clock," Newton said. "But we have it in each and every week."

Newton said he normally has two calls he can with in the huddle, one of them normally being a safer play call in case he doesn't like the look of the defense. This past week against Detroit, Newton said he audibled more than usual.

He said he's getting more comfortable than ever with changing plays, even if it means calling his own number.

"I'm a chameleon," Newton said. "Whatever they tell me to do I'm going to do it."

Despite his dominant running, Newton wants to earn respect as a quarterback who can beat you with his arm first. He's struggled a little bit more with that aspect of the game in recent weeks, throwing four interceptions against the Lions last week. And for the season he's thrown more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (12).

On Sunday, Newton has a chance to pad his stats against the worst defense in the league, the winless Indianapolis Colts. The Colts (0-10) are giving up more than 30 points per game and have already surrendered 12 rushing touchdowns on the season.

"Obviously he's playing exceptional football," said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. "He's a talented guy who not only has a real good feel for what they're doing offensively. He's also making a lot of big plays. Anybody in his position who scores nine touchdowns and is on pace to break the NFL record, that's quite an accomplishment.

"Besides that, he can throw the ball. He's been a very dangerous guy to deal with week in and week out. He just seems to keep getting better all the time."

Notes: Starting WR Legedu Naanee sat out practice Thursday with a sore ankle and his status this week is uncertain. If he can't play, Brandon LaFell would get the start against the Colts... LB Omar Gaither (knee) also sat out, but DE Charles Johnson and LB James Anderson took part in a full practice. LB Jason Phillips was limited.