CHARLOTTE – Tuesday's announcement to place Cam Newton on injured reserve finally ended the ongoing will-they-won't-they saga surrounding the Panthers quarterback this season.
With Newton officially sidelined for the next eight weeks, that means his season is all but over. But while Newton hadn't been making an impact on the field the past six weeks, it's clear his leadership and infectious enthusiasm will be missed.
"I've talked about how much we love Cam, how we're friends on and off the field," wide receiver Jarius Wright said. "It's bittersweet. You get the bitter of not having a guy you love to be around, not having one of your friends out there with you, but the sweet part is a guy like Kyle Allen gets the chance to be the guy he is."
Since taking over at quarterback this season, Allen has won five of his six starts. A large part of that stems from the time he's spent learning from Newton, which is why he's so disappointed on Newton's behalf.
"To see him play through the shoulder injury all year and see how hard he worked to get ready each week to play, then the rehab this offseason to get ready to come back this year," Allen said. "Then to have something else happen to his foot – not even the same injury. I feel for him. It's tough for a competitor like him who has been on top his whole career.
"Behind the scenes he's working his ass off every day to get healthy. It's tough to see him go on IR, but I know he's going to handle it well and I know he's going to do everything he can to get back to his full potential."
In the next man up world of the NFL, though, there isn't much time to dwell on the season-ending loss of Newton. After all, the Panthers have been Allen's team for the past six weeks, and he had already been announced as the starter for Sunday's matchup with the Packers.
"Nothing changes. Now we know officially Cam isn't coming back," edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. "We trust in '7.' It's an unfortunate situation for Cam. He's a hell of a player. But life goes on. He knows that, we know that. '7' is the guy now and we've got complete faith in him. I'm behind him."
Safety Tre Boston said that despite the decision, Wednesday's practice was still business as usual for the team.
"It's kind of like we're going on with our day, because we knew Kyle was starting this week and each week it's just been like we're ready to roll with Kyle," Boston said. "Only you guys are ready for the, 'Cam's back!' We love Kyle, we love what he's done for us, we love that he's going to be able to finish the season."
As far as Newton's absence is concerned, Boston said he has nothing but love for the quarterback.
"Cam, we love him, we're here for him, we want him to heal," Boston said. "We want to see a better Cam, and we know how good he can be when he's healthy. Best of luck to him, we know MVP version is going to come back, but as of right now, you work with who you've got."
On the offensive side of the ball, things aren't much different. Right guard Trai Turner echoed Boston's sentiments.
"I can only speak for me, but I don't really think there's too much of a difference," Turner said. "Whoever's playing that week is going to play their hardest. I'm not going to block any harder for whoever's in there. I just hope the Cam gets well soon and Kyle keeps progressing."
As disappointing as the decision to effectively end Newton's season may be, Wright said that one of the biggest benefits of it will be the now decelerated pace of the quarterback's recovery. Instead of feeling the need to quickly rush back and return to the field, Newton will now be able to take his time and ensure he's healthy.
"It's always a lot easier on a player," Wright said. "The pressure to return, now he doesn't have that pressure. You don't have to rush yourself back, you have enough time to rehab and do all the things you need to do, not only physically, but mentally also."