The Carolina Panthers aren’t sure what the future holds for quarterback Cam Newton after he ended the 2018 season sidelined by a shoulder injury. But the team is keeping all its options open concerning the QB, team owner David Tepper said, including the possibility of Newton sitting out the 2019 campaign.
“Of course, I’m concerned about it,” Tepper said about the ailment affecting Newton’s throwing shoulder. “I think we and him are going to do everything we can to try to make that shoulder better, so I’m not going to be panicking about Cam’s shoulder this year. I don’t think we’re going to panic about Cam’s shoulder this year. Hopefully, it’s good. Hopefully, he’s great.”
Newton appeared on the Carolina injury report as a limited participant for the Panthers’ three Week 8 practices this season. After that, the former Auburn standout settled into a pattern of not doing any passing during practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays and working fully on Fridays.
During the first eight games of the season, Newton completed 177-of-263 passes for 1,893 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 100.8 as the Panthers posted a 6-2 record. In the next six games — all losses for Carolina — Newton completed 143-of-208 passes for 1,502 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 85.9 before the Panthers pulled him from the lineup for the final two games of the season.
After what turned out to be his final game of the 2018 season — a 12-9 loss to the Saints on Dec. 17 — Newton complained of “shoulder soreness,” but said he didn’t know the cause. Carolina hasn’t made any announcement about the specifics of Newton’s shoulder problem.
“The only thing that’s safe to me to say is from our people inside and his people on the outside, there’s a lot of people looking to figure out what’s the best course of action,” Tepper said. “Hopefully, he’ll be better and good in the first game of the year. …
“We’ve got to make sure we have our options open in all ways possible, just in case. We’re all hoping everything will be great — and it could be great. Look at (Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew) Luck this year. Who knows?”
The No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in 2012 — the year after Carolina chose Newton with the draft’s first pick — Luck had surgery on his throwing shoulder and missed the entire 2017 season. He came back in 2018 to throw for 4,583 yards and 39 touchdowns, lead the Colts to the second round of the AFC playoffs and return to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014.
“If you told me he took a year off and could recover and be fully recovered and everything else and that’s what it took — an extra year — why wouldn’t you do that?” Tepper said. “Now we would have to do other things, right? We’d have to go out and get another quarterback. If you could find me some more cap space, I’d appreciate that.”
Newton had surgery on his throwing shoulder during the 2017 offseason, too, and recovered in time to play in every game that year, when Carolina posted an 11-5 record.
The Panthers’ plan is to expect the best while being prepared for the worst.
“Hopefully, Cam’s shoulder is fantastic, right?” Tepper said. “And we’re hunky dory, all fantastic. If it’s not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here. …
“So think about that. You want to keep your options open, put yourself in best position as you can to win, and I’m talking again for the long term.”
Tepper purchased the Panthers for $2.275 billion in July. On Tuesday, he conducted his first interviews since those he did when he became the team owner. Tepper recorded a video interview with Carolina’s official web site and met with Charlotte-area print reporters on Tuesday night.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.