There have been very few days since late March when Carolina panthers quarterback Cam Newton has not had to receive treatment for one of his ailments.
For four months, it was for his surgically repaired ankle. For the past month, it’s been the ankle and cracked ribs. There’s no end in sight.
“Well it’s been the story of my life all year, it feels like,” Newton said. “There’s nothing more to expect than treatment. I’m not complaining because I know it’s going to pay off sooner or later. It’s frustrating to have this nicked up, have that nicked up, being able to try to do things that you’re not able to do. But knowing that the only way it’s going to get better is being steadfast with treatment.”
Of course, both injuries could get better if Newton took time off, but that’s not an option. In his first regular-season game this year, Newton threw for 281 yards, rushed for 19 yards and was sacked five times.
Newton’s routine after a game will become metronomic. He hurts Sunday night, gets treatment Monday, gets treatment on the team’s off day on Tuesday and hopes the soreness has dissipated enough by practice on Wednesday.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t see the pattern breaking any time this season.
“Probably sometime in February, in all honesty,” said Rivera when asked when Newton will stop getting treatment. “Because it’s going to go with the position and the way he plays. He plays hard and he plays where he cuts it loose. It’s going to be like that. He’ll have the nagging soreness constantly.”
Newton is healthy enough to play, but his injuries are no secret. Against the Lions he had 19 yards rushing and tied a career low with four attempts – one of which was a kneel down.
Rivera acknowledged teams may not respect Newton’s rushing ability this season as much as they have in previous years, when he averaged more than 677 rushing yards per season in his first three years.
Still, Rivera doesn’t believe it has rendered Carolina’s rushing game less effective.
“You look at the last game we played and they had nine (defenders) in the box, eight in the box a lot. I think they respect the run game,” Rivera said.
The Panthers won’t throttle down their read-option scheme, though. Newton said he wasn’t as fluid on the field against the Lions, and he even said he had his ankle rolled up on once or twice.
Pittsburgh has struggled mightily against the rush this season. The Steelers are third-worst in the NFL with 174 rushing yards allowed per game.
But Rivera expects the Steelers and long-time defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau to return to form sooner rather than later. A 3-4 defense with mobile linebackers and a lot of disguises in the secondary is what Rivera anticipates from Pittsburgh Sunday night.
Though he’s 33, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu must still be accounted for in the game, Newton said.
“This defense is very savvy and they have very savvy players. Troy Polamalu is one of those guys,” Newton said. “He’s been playing this game for so long and he understands what the offense is trying to do and he can get manipulate the offense to get them to slide the protection either way and give exotic blitzes from different ways. We have to hone in and find out where he is at all times.”
The faster he can find Polamalu, the better. Newton needs all the protection he can get with his injuries. Rivera indicated earlier in the week Newton’s ankle was more sore than his ribs. Newton wasn’t so sure about that.
“Well, when you’ve been banged up as long as I’ve been banged up for so long, you don’t know which one is the other,” Newton said.
Some day, Newton will be healthy and pain-free again. It just won’t be this season.
“Honestly, some time in February or March where he feels really good, it’ll be one of those things where all of a sudden he wakes up one morning (and is fine),” Rivera said. “Believe me, I’ve been fortunate enough to have felt that way before.”