Panthers owner: Team needs backup plan if Newton can't play
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Panthers are preparing for life without Cam Newton next season in case the team's franchise quarterback can't make it back from a lingering shoulder injury.
Panthers owner David Tepper said Tuesday that while the team is exhausting all options to make sure Newton's throwing shoulder gets the medical attention he needs this offseason, it is important to "keep their options open."
The hope, he said, is Newton will be healthy. However, it's been 2½ weeks since Carolina's season ended, and the team still doesn't know if the 2015 league MVP will need surgery.
The Panthers have never said what the injury is — and Newton doesn't know either.
"If you know what you might be facing next year, or not facing — hopefully Cam's shoulder is fantastic and we're hunky dory and we're all happy — (but) if it's not, you may need more cap space," Tepper said. "You need to be able to go out and find somebody. If you don't, (reporters) are going to be writing up what a dope we are here. Why didn't we make these other moves?"
Newton struggled most of the season throwing the ball more than 15 yards downfield because of a lingering shoulder issue, partially stemming from surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in 2017. The Panthers eventually shut him down with two games remaining after being eliminated from playoff contention.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton was a mere shell of himself in the passing game the second half of last season as the Panthers finished 7-9 after starting the season 6-2.
Newton threw six interceptions and two touchdowns in his final three games.
"Of course it's a concern," Tepper said of Newton's shoulder. "... Cam Newton is the guy we are going to be depending on. He's a talent. But it would be foolish for anybody to say that you're not having an awareness of what could be and potential things that could happen through the year."
Tepper also pointed to Colts QB Andrew Luck as a player who returned from a shoulder injury to play at a high level this year — although that came after Luck sat out all of the 2017 season.
"From our people on the inside and his people on the outside there are a lot of people looking to see what is the best course of action," Tepper said.
Tepper said undrafted rookie Kyle Allen, who played well in Carolina's season-ending win at New Orleans — a game in which the Saints rested many of their starters after having clinched home-field advantage in the NFC — is an option.
However, Tepper also said looking outside the organization is a possibility.
He said in retrospect the Panthers should've considered sitting down Newton earlier in the season when he wasn't able to practice during the week.
"As Cam's shoulder got worse that made it that much harder to win," Tepper said.