Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton says he’s not worried about when he might play again. He’s just thankful to be alive.
Speaking for the first time since he was injured in a two-car crash Tuesday in uptown Charlotte, Newton repeatedly mentioned his good fortune in escaping the wreck with two fractures in his lower back.
“I’m on somebody’s fantasy league, and I think it’s the man upstairs,” Newton said Thursday at Bank of America Stadium.
Newton was back at the stadium less than 48 hours after his lunchtime wreck left his black pickup truck totaled and ignited a social media frenzy as Panthers fans and NFL followers sought updates on his condition.
“I really couldn’t talk afterward because I was in such shock,” Newton said. “I got myself out of the truck, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’m looking at this truck and I’m like, ‘Somebody’s supposed to be dead.’ And I just can’t stop smiling because it’s like, God has his hands on me.”
After spending Tuesday night at Carolinas Medical Center, Newton was released Wednesday and returned to the stadium Thursday to receive treatment and attend meetings with the team’s other quarterbacks.
He will sit out Sunday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just the second game he will have missed since the Panthers selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sustained the same injury as Newton’s – two transverse process fractures – this season and returned after missing one game. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday is the best-case scenario for Newton to return in time for the Dec. 21 game against Cleveland.
But Newton said concerns about his football status are secondary.
“As far as when I’m coming back, who cares? That’s not something that I’m worried about right now,” Newton said. “I’m just thankful to have breath in my lungs.”
Newton said he never lost consciousness during the wreck, which occurred at the intersection of South Church and West Hill streets, a block from the Panthers’ stadium.
Newton was traveling south on Church when he said he saw the driver of the other vehicle, Nestor Pellot Jr., pull out and attempt to cross Church in a Buick sedan. Newton said he attempted to avoid Pellot’s car, but the Buick “clipped the back of my truck.”
The impact of the collision caused Newton’s truck to overturn on the bridge over the John Belk Freeway.
Neither driver was cited in the crash, which happened at Charlotte’s fourth-most dangerous intersection, according to traffic statistics.
Newton, 25, was traveling at the posted speed limit of 35 mph at the time of the accident, according to the crash report.
Newton said the airbags deployed in his truck, and he sustained no external cuts or injuries. He climbed out of the rear window of the truck, then sat on a curb while emergency personnel checked him out.
The crash report shows Newton’s truck sustained $9,000 in damage, while Pellot’s 2013 Buick had $4,000 in damage.
Pellot, 46, was treated and released at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.
Newton, who wore a blue hoodie and leaned on a lectern during his seven-minute press conference, said he came to the stadium Thursday in part to ease the minds of teammates and coaches.
Rivera said Newton looked “a little sore” but otherwise appeared to be OK.
“When he gets warmed up and treated, he moves around pretty good. He’s in good spirits. He’s positive,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot for him to build on as we go forward and see what happens in a week or so, as far as his health is concerned.”
When Newton saw Panthers cornerback Josh Norman on Thursday, Newton jokingly told him he needed to intercept more passes.
“I said, ‘Well we need you back so you can throw the ball more,’ ” Norman said. “It’s one of those joking things, playing with him. He’s in good spirits overall.”
Newton said he didn’t want his situation to become a distraction for the Panthers as they prepare for a Tampa Bay team that is 2-11 and has been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Panthers (4-8-1), despite going more than two months between victories before last week’s 41-10 win at New Orleans, are just a half-game behind the Saints (5-8) and Atlanta (5-8) for first place in the NFC South.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson will fill in for Newton against the Buccaneers, as he did during a Week 1 win at Tampa Bay when Newton was sidelined with cracked ribs.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Bank of America (stadium) as hyped as it’s been this whole year,” Newton said. “I’m anticipating a big win for these guys, and I’m backing D.A. 100 percent.”
Newton said seeing pictures of his 1998 Dodge Ram, with its smashed cab on the passenger’s side, made him realize how fortunate he was.
“I’m just lucky to come out of there unscathed with just the little injury that I did have,” Newton said. “Every time I see that flashback of looking at that truck, I’m surprised that nothing serious was done to me.”