NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Panthers are expected to sit Newton now that they are essentially out of the playoff race. Backup Taylor Heinicke will start Sunday versus the Atlanta Falcons.
“It was a very good conversation with Cam,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday. “He understood and understood our thinking behind this. He’s disappointed. He’s frustrated. He wants to play. This is one of those things that we just had a great conversation. He understands going forward.”
Rivera added they are not ready to put Newton on injured reserve.
The move is a no-brainer for the Panthers, who have lost six straight games. At this point, the hope is that rest will allow the quarterback’s shoulder injury to heal during the offseason.
Newton hasn’t looked right the past several weeks. Monday night’s loss to the New Orleans was brutal to watch, with the quarterback tossing careening passes that had turf worms ducking for cover.
Newton began sitting out of practice around Week 8 due to lingering soreness in his shoulder. First described as maintenance days, the issue has been exacerbated in recent weeks and culminates with the QB being placed in bubble wrap to close the season.
The 29-year-old’s struggles with the shoulder issue came to a head in Monday night’s loss, a game in which Newton finished with his worst statistical output of the season in nearly every category: Completion percentage, 55.2; passing yards per attempt, 4.5; passing yards, 131; passer rating, 52.5.
After the defeat, a clearly frustrated Newton was transparent about not fully knowing how the shoulder issue was affecting him.
“I wish I could say what the injury is because I don’t really know what it is either,” Newton said after the loss. “No matter how much you push, no matter how much you ice, the anti-inflammatory you take. Trust me, I’ve done it. Acupuncture, massages. There’s not a night that goes by without me getting some type of work done on my arm. You just don’t have the strength. From the range of motion, you work on the range of motion then come game time and you never know how the game can play out. Of course you try to stay under 25?30 throws, but if you surpass that or you get hit on it or you have to run or you get tackled and fall on your shoulder, certain things happen. That’s the game of football. As far as stiffness, just muscle tension, there’s a lot going on. At the end of the day it’s not something that hasn’t got worse over the weeks or hasn’t got better over the weeks. It’s just been the same.”
Late in 2016, Newton had issues with his shoulder, leading to one of the most erratic stretches of his career. The signal-caller underwent surgery in March 2017 and pushed to return before the season. His problems in 2018 appear to stem from that same shoulder problem.
The Panthers allowed Newton to play through injury last time. They allowed him to hasten his return before the 2017 season.