INDIANAPOLIS – Per NFL rules, coaches and players can’t chat with each other until offseason workouts begin in mid-April. But from what Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is hearing, quarterback Cam Newton is recovering nicely after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his shoulder last month.
“Probably the biggest thing I can tell you is what (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion updates and just that everything is progressing very well. He's going through his rehab sessions, so everything's been positive,” Rivera said Thursday.
While he’s here at the NFL Scouting Combine, Rivera may take a close look at quarterbacks – a position the Panthers haven’t drafted since they made Newton the No. 1 pick in 2011.
“I know the last few years we have looked at taking a quarterback,” Rivera revealed, “and a couple times a guy that we liked got taken before we had a chance to.”
Clearly, settling on a backup plan is one of this offseason’s key decisions. But don’t expect the Panthers to bring in a veteran – at least before the draft.
“I think right now we're very pleased with where we are at our quarterback position. We're very satisfied with what we got at the end of the year from both Taylor (Heinicke) and Kyle (Allen),” Rivera said.
“If we did do anything, it's probably going to be in the draft. We think developing a guy is important going forward.”
The Panthers also want to continue developing Ian Thomas after the tight end shined while replacing Greg Olsen the second half of last season. Now coaches believe they can give both guys snaps without sacrificing Thomas’ growth.
“Look at what we had my first two years with him and (Jeremy) Shockey,” Rivera said. “Going forward, we have a young man in Ian that really has a tremendous skill set very similar to Greg's who needs a lot of seasoning. But Greg is still a very valuable player, a veteran guy that can really help this football team.”
Olsen played just 16 games the past two seasons, but before he broke his foot in 2017, he had a nine-year streak where he didn’t miss a game. Doctors have told him the second surgery he had on his foot this winter “fixes it for good,” so despite a report about Olsen’s TV offers potentially pulling him away from football, the Panthers still very much have him in their plans.
“Greg has told me he wants to play,” Rivera said. “So going forward, I'm very happy with that.”
Talk to any of the many draft analysts camped out in Indy this week and you’ll hear a common refrain: This draft is loaded with talent on the defensive line. That’s obviously good timing for a team like the Panthers, who could use some pass-rushing help. But there’s also a number of intriguing options on the offensive line – another spot that needs shoring up.
“I've had an opportunity to watch a lot of the offensive linemen and a few of the defensive linemen already,” Rivera said, “and I do agree, part of the strength of this draft will be the fronts.”