The last time fans saw Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in action, the team lost their sixth-straight game in an ugly 12-9 defeat to the New Orleans Saints. Clearly, something wasn’t right with the former NFL Most Valuable Player. Newton’s arm strength had obviously diminished, and his confidence running the football was nowhere to be found. Carolina went from a 6-2 team in prime playoff position, to a 6-8 team ready to hang it up for the season.
That’s exactly what the franchise did with its star quarterback, as Newton would be sidelined the final two games of the 2018 regular season. On January 24, 2019, the former No. 1 overall pick underwent right shoulder surgery for the second time in two years.
The first came on March 30, 2017 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. But Superman rebounded, finishing that season with 3,302 passing yards, a career-high 754 rushing yards and 28 total touchdowns.
It was obvious, though, that something wasn’t right down the stretch last year.
“It doesn’t matter how much you push,” Newton said after that loss to the Saints (per The Charlotte Observer). “Ice, anti-inflammatories you take… I mean, trust me, I did it. Acupuncture. Massages. It’s just not been a time that (a) night has gone by without me getting some type of work done on my arm.”
That frustrating shoulder injury ended his eighth NFL season prematurely, but things still aren’t 100 percent for the one-time Heisman Trophy winner with the Auburn Tigers. At least, that’s the impression Carolina head coach Ron Rivera gave before his team reports to training camp on Thursday, July 25 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
“Well, we have a plan. Obviously it’s going to be structured around our installation, so based on the things that we have as far as going in with our install, will dictate what he does. All of his reps will be monitored, they’ll be scripted out and we’ll just follow that pattern as we go through.
“We believe he’ll be ready to roll. He had a good offseason, he had a good break from what we were told. Again, the proof will be in the pudding and we’ll see tomorrow exactly.”
— Ron Rivera, h/t Associated Press’ Steve Reed
Cam Newton Injury Update
Rivera added that team doctors and the coaching staff, in particular the father-son duo of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, are “going to pay attention to the reps” and put Newton on a kind of pitch count during training camp.
Newton threw in a limited capacity during minicamp back in June, mostly to stationary targets as well as some short, timing routs as his rehab progressed. Backups Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen took the majority of snaps throwing to the likes of D.J. Moore, Greg Olsen, and former New England wide receiver Chris Hogan.
At 30 years old, Newton’s ninth season will be huge. The superstar QB has two years left on his $103 million contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Despite finishing last season with a career-high 67.9 completion percentage, Newton’s legs, which made him so dangerous during his prime, are slowing down.
Last season’s 34.9 rushing yards per game was the second-lowest of his career and his four rushing touchdowns were his fewest ever.
Two shoulder surgeries in a two-year span never bodes well, especially when you’re a quarterback. Carolina is looking towards the future with running back Christian McCaffrey already in place, plus they drafted former West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
If Newton’s shoulder isn’t 100 percent, it’ll be obvious. It’s a waiting game to see when Newton returns to form, but one thing is abundantly clear. The Panthers are taking zero chances with their $100 million dollar man, who likely won’t see much, if any, live action during the preseason.