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Fowler: Unscientific reasoning says Cam Newton will start for Panthers on Sunday

Scott Fowler is a national award-winning sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/04/19/56/G6SaX.Em.138.jpeg|427
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) jogs into practice on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Newton took limited reps at practice Thursday after not participating in practice on Wednesday due to soreness.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/04/19/55/1p9WcJ.Em.138.jpeg|168
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, leads his teammates out of a huddle to begin drills on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Newton took limited reps at practice Thursday after not participating in practice on Wednesday due to soreness.

You remember that car, don’t you?

You loved it once. It got you where you needed to go. You still have nostalgic memories of it now.

For Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, that well-loved car is his body – and right now he’s frustrated with it.

In a freewheeling press conference Thursday about the series of injuries that have threatened to keep him out of Sunday’s season opener at Tampa Bay, Newton said of his body: “It’s kind of like that old faithful car. You fix the A/C; now the carburetor’s out. Then you fix the carburetor; you’ve got a flat tire. You fix the flat tire; now your windshield wipers don’t work.

“It’s frustrating because you know it’s a good car,” Newton continued. “This car has got you to this point. And now it’s like every single thing is happening. And the thing is, you keep messing the car up not even driving it.”

Newton has never missed a real game at any level because of injury, and I still don’t think he will miss Sunday’s game.

But that possibility is now on the table. Last week, Newton said there was “no doubt” he would play in Tampa. Now he is hedging his bets a little, talking about how he doesn’t want to “jeopardize” the team or his own future by rushing his way back from fractured ribs. A decision likely won’t be made until game day, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

Here is my totally unscientific reasoning as to why Newton is going to play Sunday despite the ribs and the offseason ankle surgery – he feels good, or at least good enough.

Newton was his normal playful self on Thursday – pretending to hide from a photographer behind a blocking sled and screaming out Luke Kuechly’s middle name during Kuechly’s interview session. (“A-u-u-u-u-gust!”)

Newton also continued his car analogy when someone asked what make and model his body would be.

“A 2020 Ferrari,” Newton said. “But still, it got called back to the factory because it did have some (things wrong). But if we can fix those things, man ...” Newton whistled in admiration.

I think Newton was happy because he is feeling better as it gets later in the week. The quarterback said Thursday he was “on pace” to play. When asked what might disrupt that pace, he said: “Maybe walking home and somebody wants to mob me or something like that. Getting hit by a car. Running away from a tiger. There’s a lot of things.”

If Newton keeps away from circuses and texting drivers, though, I think he’s playing Sunday. Certainly Tampa Bay believes he will play.

Let’s think about the alternatives for a second, though, if he doesn’t play. Backup quarterback Derek Anderson is good enough to win the Tampa game under the right circumstances. Third-stringer Joe Webb doesn’t know the offense as well but had a good August.

Newton can and will manage the pain if at all possible, though – and there has been some serious pain. As he said Thursday: “Anyone who has ever had fractured ribs knows: It’s hard to sleep. It’s hard to make sudden moves. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to cough. It’s hard to sneeze.”

It’s also hard to throw a football. Not to throw it once, but to throw it over and over, with the velocity an NFL quarterback has to have. The normally candid Rivera wouldn’t even say whether Newton threw the ball in practice Thursday. Newton only handed off during the portion that reporters saw. That’s how coy the Panthers are playing this.

But I think the old car starts up one more time on Sunday. The windshield wipers may still not be working. But it still runs.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler
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