Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is likely to miss this week’s game against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident Tuesday afternoon a block from Bank of America Stadium.
Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said tests revealed two transverse process fractures in Newton’s back, but no other internal injuries.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had the same injury this season, and missed one game before returning to action.
The Panthers said their first concern was the health of their franchise quarterback and that of the other driver in the wreck that resulted in Newton’s Dodge Ram pickup overturning several times on Church Street, just about a block from the stadium.
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“Right now it’s all about Cam’s well-being,” Dayton said. “I understand there was someone else in the other car who was injured. Just hope that they’re all OK.”
Newton was transported to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was to be held Tuesday night for observation. The condition of the other driver is unknown.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera will address Newton’s status Wednesday. But Newton’s injuries likely will keep him out of Sunday’s home game against the Buccaneers, team sources said.
Newton sat out a Week 1 win at Tampa Bay with fractured ribs, the only game he’s missed during his four-year NFL career.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson started in place of Newton in the Panthers’ 20-14 win in the opener. Anderson, a nine-year veteran, completed 24 of 34 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Anderson has appeared in mop-up duty in four other games this season. He’s completing 70 percent of his passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Newton underwent surgery in March to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle and was sidelined for all but one practice during organized team activities and a three-day minicamp last spring. Newton was limited for much of training camp, then injured his ribs at New England during the third exhibition.
Newton lobbied Rivera to start the opening game at Tampa Bay, but doctors and trainers convinced Rivera to give Newton an extra week for his ribs to heal.
But it was Newton’s surgically repaired ankle that prompted coaches to use precaution in limiting the number of times Newton ran the ball during his first few games back in the lineup. That changed during a Week 6 game at Cincinnati, where Newton had a career-high 17 carries for 107 yards during a 37-37 tie with the Bengals.
With injuries along the offensive line causing his pass protection to break down, Newton went into a prolonged slump after the Bengals’ game, coinciding with the Panthers’ six-game losing streak.
But Newton broke out with his best game of the season last week in a 41-10 victory at New Orleans – a win that put the Panthers back in contention for the NFC South crown.
Newton passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints, while running for 83 yards and another score. It was Newton’s fourth game – the most in NFL history – with at least 200 yards and multiple touchdowns passing and at least 80 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Newton’s performance against the Saints helped the Panthers (4-8-1) snap a seven-game winless streak and kept their hopes alive for a second consecutive playoff berth.
The Panthers trail both New Orleans (5-8) and Atlanta (5-8) by a half-game with three games remaining. The team is hopeful Newton will be available for the stretch run.
At least one teammate is confident Newton will be back.
“He’s going to be fine. I mean, Superman, he’s got to be fine,” cornerback Josh Norman, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown celebration. “We’re going to need that guy.”