Carolina Panthers

Under all the noise, one thing is certain: Panthers’ Cam Newton is making progress

Panthers Ron Rivera’s impressions of Cam’s progression Tuesday

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera discusses quarterback Cam Newton's progress following practice on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.
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Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera discusses quarterback Cam Newton's progress following practice on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

The Carolina Panthers appeared to set a high bar for quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, as he threw publicly for the first time during the first day of the team’s three-day veteran minicamp.

But behind all of the hoopla, there remained steady progress.

Newton has been throwing overhand since May as part of his rehabilitation following an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder in January.

On Tuesday, the Panthers live-streamed Newton on all of their media platforms while he threw 20-something times to stationary or all-but-stationary targets.

“He’s back!” read team graphics in an email sent out to Panthers fans on Monday night that advertised the broadcast ahead of the next morning’s practice. The team even released the exact time to tune in — 8:40 a.m. — for all of the action.

Well, Newton is almost back. The continued participation in throwing drills is certainly a positive step for him, and the team says he remains on pace — as he has since his January surgery — to make a full return by training camp in six weeks.

“As I said, this is just the first step of many,” said head coach Ron Rivera, pragmatically. “And we’re really looking forward to tomorrow to see how much more he’s going to do.”

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More reality surfaced via Rivera after he was asked about an NFL Network report released Monday that stated Newton would “unveil a massive change to his throwing mechanics” during Tuesday’s workout.

However, mechanical tweaks to take stress off Newton’s shoulder were put into place by offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner way back 2018, in response to Newton’s first surgery in spring of 2017. They worked when he was healthy — Newton had the best statistical start to his career and the Panthers cruised to 6-2 to open the season.

But when Newton began to feel pain and soreness in his throwing arm, and his range of motion became limited, the team had to adjust its scheme — the deep ball disappeared — and Newton’s practice reps.

“If you go back and look at all of the things that happened earlier in the year, before (Newton) started having shoulder issues, you could see the the improvement,” said Rivera. “You could see the footwork, you could see the whole development of him ...

“The shoulder started to go, and everything just kind of fell (by) the wayside. Now, he has an opportunity to go back, rework those things and do the things he needs to do to improve. He’s done a great job, and we’re really excited about it.”

Rivera confirmed that Newton will simply be picking up where he left off when he was healthy.

Moving forward, Newton and the Turners will continue to find ways to take stress and pressure off of his shoulder — and that can range from the hits Newton takes (the Panthers have made an effort to rebuild their offensive line this spring) to the scheme.

New Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy enjoys his first day on the practice field with his teammates on Tuesday, June 11 2019. McCoy had been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he was one of the team's most decorated players.

In 2018, for example, the Panthers’ offense featured a healthy amount of checkdown and mid-range passes, where it became beneficial to have playmakers like Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore — all players who can create extra space and more yards after a catch, while keeping an offense moving quickly.

Rivera added that a second year under Norv Turner — especially a healthy year — would be beneficial for Newton.

“You saw the growth. You saw the progression,” said Rivera. “He’ll now be in his second year in the system, understanding what he really needs to do as a quarterback and the decisions he needs to make, that will dictate a lot about his throwing style as well.”

Newton appeared as enthusiastic as ever during Tuesday’s workout. That, like his progress through rehab, remains steady.

“I think you guys could hear that he brought a little energy,” said Rivera. “I think that helps boost him, when he’s a little more involved in the practices.“

Rivera brought everybody back down to earth once more — you can catch it for yourself on the live-stream — reminding the public that Tuesday was a step forward, but one of many still to come.

“He did exactly what we had scripted out,” said Rivera. “That was to make some targeted throws. (We will) see how he feels later on today, see how he feels tomorrow ... But again, this is all (a part of) the process. He’s going through the steps of his recovery.

“And I’m very pleased with him, I really was.”

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Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.

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