Like a lot of people in Hollywood, Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert has a script he would like to pitch you.
Tolbert was thinking about the Carolina Panthers’ tumultuous season Wednesday. A star quarterback in a car crash that will force him to miss Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. A Pro Bowl defensive end who has missed every game but one because of domestic violence charges. A six-game losing streak.
“It would make a good movie in a few years,” Tolbert said, “if we go out and win the Super Bowl.”
That sounds like lunacy for a 4-8-1 team, but the rest of this season has been totally unpredictable, too. NFL locker rooms are often a world unto themselves, but for the 2014 Panthers, the world has constantly crept in through an open window.
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Newton’s truck-flipping crash Tuesday afternoon was the most bizarre incident of all. He was not deemed at fault in the two-car accident, according to police, but for a few seconds he sure was in serious danger.
Said offensive guard Trai Turner, shaking his head: “Once I saw the pictures it’s a blessing that he’s not severely injured.”
Tuesday is the one day off NFL players get per week, so the Panthers were scattered all over the place when they got the news.
Derek Anderson, who will replace Newton at quarterback Sunday just like he did for Week 1 at Tampa Bay, was eating lunch at home with his wife. He was getting ready to go to Bank of America Stadium to join Newton, who was planning to watch film of the Tampa Bay defense on his off day.
Tolbert got the news the way most Panthers did – via social media.
“I’m hearing that the car rolled four or five times and that he broke both his legs,” Tolbert said of the first reports he saw on Twitter.
He immediately called Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who assured him Newton had not broken his legs and that the quarterback was conscious.
Newton, who was released from the hospital Wednesday after being kept overnight, does have two transverse process fractures in his lower back. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo missed one game with the same injury this season, and Tolbert said he had no doubt Newton would return before the season ends.
“He’s the type that could be rolling around in a wheelchair, still trying to throw balls,” Tolbert said of Newton.
Rivera visited Newton on Tuesday.
“He’s really kind of bummed out,” Rivera said. “Everything seemed to come together, especially against New Orleans, a good football team. He played well and he brought energy to the team. We saw it.
“For this to happen, I know he’s really disappointed. And the feeling I got and the sense I got from listening to him was like he’s letting us all down.”
He’s not, of course, but you can understand why Newton would want to play. I will go ahead and guess he’s going to start the Dec. 21 home game against Cleveland – if that game still has playoff implications.
In the meantime, here comes Anderson, who has started 44 games over his 10-year NFL career. He was very good in the first game against Tampa Bay, completing 24 of 34 passes for 230 yards, with two touchdowns and no turnovers.
“Cam is a franchise, elite type of guy,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “But D.A. could play in a lot of cities. A lot of teams would love to have him right now.”
As Olsen also pointed out, Anderson isn’t going to jump over every player on the field for a touchdown, as Newton did Sunday in the best game he played all season – a 41-10 thumping of the New Orleans Saints.
As long as the Panthers’ offensive line holds up, though, Anderson can throw the ball as accurately as Newton can. Anderson won’t be keeping the ball on the read-option play, but he can sling it.
Anderson said that while this week should be about Newton’s safety and health, the Panthers and their fans still remember a game must be played – and won – for Carolina to stay in the playoff race.
“We need a city-wide effort, get the stadium rocking,” Anderson said.
Here’s an easy way to make that happen.
Just before kickoff, Newton trots out to the “Keep Pounding” drum, does his “Superman” thing and then bangs that drum hard enough to leave a hole.
Can you imagine? It would be the perfect ending to a weird week. And a fine scene for Tolbert’s movie, too, if it ever gets made.
“We could still win the Super Bowl, you know,” Tolbert said.
Hey, after a week like this, a little optimism isn’t going to hurt anyone.