Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will play but should he?
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been limited with a shoulder injury all week.
Cam Newton endured an entire preseason and training camp without regularly throwing the football following rotator cuff surgery in March, prior to the 2017 season. He didn’t miss any games, beginning last year with two touchdown passes and 25 attempts in the opener before leading the Carolina Panthers back to playoffs. Following a healthy offseason, expectations for Newton were high entering 2018 but after six games it appears his injury may be flaring up again.
Newton has not been throwing during the portion of practice open to the media this week and found himself on the injury report for the first time this season. The Panthers quarterback has improved his accuracy numbers this year but has also limited his attempts over 10-15 yards down the field.
Coach Ron Rivera says there is “no doubt” Newton will play on Sunday and with Taylor Heinicke as the only other quarterback currently available, the Panthers don’t have many options. Newton has taken every snap on offense this year, even after taking an illegal hit from Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee, and will continue to do so against Baltimore.
But should he?
The Panthers are 4-2 and in a position to compete for the NFC South championship with four of their final five games against divisional opponents. Therein lies the issue – rest Newton now for a healthy run to finish the year, while risking having nothing to play for if you lose in the interim or play him and jeopardize further injury or soreness which could effect his performance down the stretch.
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Ultimately it appears Rivera is set on the latter because playing to win every week trumps the unknown. Currently, Newton playing quarterback obviously gives Carolina the best opportunity to win and even not at 100-percent, he holds an advantage over Heinicke.
A question for another day would be if there is a quarterback available who can come in and help both in terms of practice repetitions and playing time, if needed. Heinicke has appeared in just one regular season game and thrown just one pass in his career.
The list of experienced free agents still available is short – Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Mallett and of course, Colin Kaepernick. It is also feasible the Panthers pick from another NFL practice squad for a quarterback but finding one with any legitimate experience would be difficult, if not impossible.
One thing is certain, if Newton believes he can have an impact then he’s going to play. After sustaining the tear in 2016 the Carolina captain played four games, won two and attempted 139 passes without anyone outside of the locker room even recognizing the injury.
His reasoning revolved around showing leadership and putting the team first.
"“Was it smart? People may say it wasn’t, but at the end of the day, I think the bigger picture was I’m one of the leaders on this team. I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”"
Carolina was 4-7 when he made the decision then, now they’re 4-2. So whether you believe Newton should play or not, he’s going to – at least for now.