Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday he won’t pressure quarterback Cam Newton to return from injury before he’s fully ready.
Newton, the former NFL Most Valuable Player, has missed the Panthers’ last four games while recovering from a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Backup Kyle Allen has played in his stead, and the Panthers have gone 4-0 during that time. Allen has yet to throw an interception this season, but the Panthers have been powered the past month by running back Christian McCaffrey and one of the league’s best defenses.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday night that Newton’s foot is healing well and that he would be able to practice after the team’s bye this week. Rivera told reporters he couldn’t confirm that.
“No I can’t,” Rivera said. “The problem with it is, Cam has epitomized what we asked of him of being a captain. He’s been there in support of his teammates. He’s been around. And when we met — when we first got together and talked about this — we told him, ‘Hey, we’re not going to put pressure on you.’
“... Until he’s 100 percent, until he’s ready to roll, we’re not going to address it. I mean, he’s done everything we’ve asked. People have been (saying), ‘Oh, why hasn’t he been around?’ He’s been around. We just don’t want him standing on the sideline for four-and-a-half hours for no reason. And that’s the unfair thing about it.”
Newton has not practiced since Carolina’s Week 2 loss to the Bucs on Sept. 12. He appeared at practice last week before the Panthers departed for London on Wednesday evening, but has yet to participate.
Asked if Newton needed to be 100 percent to play or just to practice, Rivera said that’s another decision the team will make in the future.
“Until I get word from our people, from our doctors specifically and trainers, I think the thing we need to do is stay focused on the here and now,” Rivera said. “As I said, I’m not putting that kind of pressure (on him). I’m not sure why people want to put pressure on a guy and get him out there before he’s ready to play.”
As far as pressuring on Newton, Rivera said he knows the quarterback will push himself to return as soon as possible. Newton said as much himself in a recent video blog, that it was difficult for him to come to grips with needing to sit out and recover.
And while Newton has received an ‘injury-prone’ label in the national media, this season represents the most time Newton has ever sat with an injury.
In his previous eight seasons, Newton has always played at least 14 games.
“That’s why when we sat down, I talked to him and I told him, I said, ‘Cam, when it’s time. And you’re really the only one who knows it,’” Rivera said. “What he’s really done has really been just the foot rehab. And being the injury that it is, we have to make sure — because he played on a Thursday night with only four days rest and apparently he did more to it — so again, we’ve just got to be smart.”
Newton initially sprained the foot in Carolina’s third preseason game against the New England Patriots back in August. And while Newton was able to play each of the team’s first two games this season — a pair of close losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — he later admitted that he couldn’t run in either.
Newton had five rushes for -2 yards in those two games.
As national headlines have swirled about what the Panthers will eventually do when Newton returns, tight end Greg Olsen repeated that decision won’t be made until the time presents itself.
“Each team handles what they think is in their best interest at that given moment,” Olsen said. “Obviously we all know the elephant in the room here, but as we’ve all said — and I heard Ron reiterate this morning — until that becomes a reality, we’ll address it then. And anything prior to that is kind of just speculation.”