CHARLOTTE – Last week against Tampa Bay wasn’t the first time this year quarterback Cam Newton has been subbed out of the game when a Hail Mary was required.
It wasn’t the first game in which he hardly attempted what would be considered a deep pass. And Newton not throwing during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice isn’t particularly noteworthy; it’s become his normal routine as he navigates soreness.
But here we are in Week 14 of the season, and the grueling nature of this game has no doubt left its mark on Newton’s throwing shoulder, which was surgically repaired following the 2016 season.
“I would not have expected me to still have things lingering from that (surgery), but at the end of the day it is what it is,” said Newton, who didn't rule out the possibility that he might need more work done in the future. “It’s about managing pain and understanding you have a job to do, a responsibility to put your best product out on the field, and I want to do that for myself and this team.”
That’s of course what head coach Ron Rivera wants. And to that end, the Panthers have had to regularly limit their quarterback during the week of practice.
“At the end of the day we just do the best we can with it,” Rivera said. “He gets whatever reps we can give him Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He’s doing the best he can to manage it.
“We just have to be ready to do something different if we have to,” Rivera added. “I think that’s probably where we are going to get to. I’m not sure yet, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Eyebrows were raised in the media room when Rivera uttered those words, but Newton is expected to play Sunday at the Cleveland Browns.
“Feels great. Taking it day-by-day. Will be ready to go on Sunday,” Newton said.
It’s a process for Newton to get himself ready for game day, and when game day comes, it’s been a matter of finding ways to be successful.
All season it’s appeared as though his arm won’t allow him to uncork deep passes like he’s done in the past. He can’t rely on his arm strength like he once did.
“Just got to live with it,” Newton said. “Father Time ain't nobody's friend, but at the end of the day you've got to do certain things that give you the best opportunity to be accurate, have strength in your arm or have endurance during the game.”
A sore throwing shoulder hasn’t kept Newton from playing at a high level in 2018. He was admittedly “reckless” with the ball during last week’s defeat against the Buccaneers when he threw four interceptions for the first time since his rookie season, but he’s still posting career bests in completion percentage (69.5) and passer rating (99.8).
He’s played in every game this season and doesn’t anticipate that changing.
“I just know I am healthy enough to play,” Newton said Wednesday. “I’m not going to let nothing hold me back from being able to help my team. I definitely don’t want to be a liability. I want to make sure I’m putting myself and this team in the best position to win football games.”