As Carolina Panthers players and coaches continued to process the news of Cam Newton’s car accident, they were relieved the franchise quarterback’s injuries weren’t more serious, and expressed confidence in his backup.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Wednesday officially ruled Newton out of Sunday’s home game against Tampa Bay.
But after seeing the pictures of Newton’s totaled truck after Tuesday’s two-car accident, Rivera said the Panthers were thankful Newton escaped with only two fractures in his lower back.
“When you see the pictures, there is a sense of relief. Thank goodness he was the only occupant, too, because the passenger side took a pretty good wallop,” Rivera said. “But he’s very fortunate. We’re very fortunate. The other driver’s very fortunate. Thank goodness that this was not a little more serious.”
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After spending Tuesday night at Carolinas Medical Center, Newton was released Wednesday morning and is expected to begin receiving treatment on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium.
Newton is dealing with soreness throughout his body and will miss just the second game of his four-year career Sunday. The only other game Newton sat out was a Week 1 win at Tampa Bay, when he was recovering from cracked ribs.
Backup Derek Anderson led the Panthers to a 20-14 win in the season opener and will get another start against the Bucs. Veteran quarterback/wide receiver Joe Webb will be Anderson’s backup.
Webb said the team’s quarterbacks are like brothers, and he was shocked to learn about Newton’s accident Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s like somebody stabbed me in the heart when I heard of it,” Webb said. “I’m glad he’s OK, though.”
Rivera indicated Newton would be inactive this week, but the hope is he can return before the Dec. 21 game against Cleveland.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sustained a similar injury earlier this season – two transverse process fractures in his lower back – and missed one game. Rivera said Newton’s pain tolerance will determine the timeline.
“We’re back to square one like we were this summer with the rib injury. It’s going to be about what he tells the doctors. It’s going to be about what we observe,” Rivera said. “He’s a very tough-minded, tough-willed young man. He wants to get back out there and help this football team as best as he can.”
In the meantime, the Panthers (4-8-1) will turn the offense over to Anderson, who threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-34 passing in the first meeting with Tampa Bay. But Anderson downplayed the significance of having already faced the Bucs (2-11), who were eliminated from playoff contention with last week’s loss at Detroit.
“Yeah, they’re 2-and-whatever, but they’ve been in every single game,” Anderson said of Tampa Bay. “They play hard. They’re scratching and fighting, just like we are every single week. So it’s not like we just roll it out there and say, ‘Hey, we beat ’em once. We’re going to beat ’em again.’ ”
Anderson said it’s exciting to start a game with playoff implications, but added it wouldn’t change his approach this week. The Panthers trail Atlanta (5-8) and New Orleans (5-8) by a half-game in the NFC South.
With the exception of the start at Tampa, Anderson has seen mostly mop-up action during his four seasons as Newton’s backup. But the former Oregon State standout has 44 starts – with a 19-25 record – in nine seasons, and went to the Pro Bowl in 2007, when he threw for nearly 3,800 yards and 29 touchdowns with Cleveland.
Tight end Greg Olsen said the Panthers are lucky to have a backup with Anderson’s credentials.
“There are a lot of teams out there that wish they had one quarterback. We’re fortunate that our backup is as good as any in the league,” Olsen said. “It’s never ideal when you lose your starting quarterback of course, but we have a ton of confidence in D.A. He’s done this before. He’s been there for a long time in this league. We expect him to step in and hit the ground running.”