No Cam Newton. Again.
And, no Curtis Samuel. Again.
The Panthers have been without the arm of their franchise quarterback for the last week of training camp, as Newton has been resting his surgically repaired shoulder after feeling some soreness following his throws early in camp.
Head coach Ron Rivera has declined to address a timetable for Newton’s return to throwing in practice. The quarterback is on a specific rehabilitation schedule with trainers that has been adjusted accordingly, after originally entering camp on a pitch count.
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It is valid to wonder whether the Panthers’ offense will be a little behind schedule in its overall installation and the “tweaks” that will be implemented with new personnel based solely on Newton’s absence.
But another missing piece is starting to loom large as well: Rookie receiver Samuel (who was drafted specifically as both a vertical and inside route threat and who has much of the same speed and versatility as No. 8 overall pick, running back Christian McCaffrey) is still hamstrung by his hamstring.
Samuel was supposed to add another level of depth to the offense that it missed dearly in 2016. If used correctly, Samuel could be used in multiple groupings with McCaffrey and other playmakers to provide quick options to Newton on routes and be an option out of the backfield, if necessary.
His presence, in theory, would also force a defense to key on him, leaving other playmakers with a little more freedom on the field (much like the team has gushed thus far about McCaffrey).
But Samuel has missed all but one day of camp this summer. He’s a piece for whom the team clearly had a vision, but so far, they’ve had to make do without him.
Rivera said Sunday afternoon that Samuel’s absence hasn’t meant the staff has had to adjust its plans for Carolina’s 2017 attack.
“No adjustments (have had to be made),” said Rivera. “We are installing our offense. We are not going to wait on anybody. We’ll just have to pick it up when he gets out here.”
The staff has adjusted a bit to Newton’s absence, however, in terms of how they keep him involved in the offense despite his limitation. Newton has executed handoff packages, used his legs at times on designed runs and even lined up out wide on Sunday afternoon while McCaffrey took a direct snap.
He has also continued to work on his footwork with staff and the other quarterbacks during breakout sessions.
Even though he has been limited as a thrower, Rivera said the staff is trying to work Newton into plays because they need to see how he and the rest of the first-team offense is clicking together.
“It’s important to get all of our people back out there on the football field so we see who’s out there and watch our projected starters work together, that’s probably the most important thing,” he said. “That’s why, in certain opportunities, we’ll get Cam out there with the ones.
“Sure, it’s a running play. But it’s his cadence, and his timing in terms of seeing guys, the motions with him, getting the backfield set, audibles. So it’s important that all of the guys are out on the football field as much as they can be right now. And we’ve got to build it up, start getting ready for the opener on Sept. 10.”