Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a painfully sore, stiff shoulder — and a broken heart.
Dejected and soft-spoken after a 12-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, Newton shared more about his struggles to fully recover from the surgery he had after the 2016 season to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.
Perhaps it was to vent. Perhaps it was to let us in just a little bit more as we criticize his achingly slow heaves, his short passes that don’t always have the zip they once did.
The sailing or bouncing throws, on which he appears to throw around the stiffness and soreness, seem to be a product of him overcorrecting mechanics that haven’t held steady since Week 8, when he first appeared back on the Panthers’ weekly injury reports.
We had no idea, really, what he has been going through.
But Monday, he let us understand a little bit more.
Newton said his problem, in its simplest form, is shoulder soreness that has not gotten better, or worse, over the past several weeks.
And, he added, there’s no immediate fix. If there was, Newton would have found it by now.
“It doesn’t matter how much you push,” he said. “Ice, anti-inflammatories you take ... I mean, trust me, I did it. Acupuncture. Massages. It’s just not been a time that (a) night has gone by without me getting some type of work done on my arm.
“We just don’t have the strength, from the range of motion.”
There are other variables to how his arm will perform, too. Newton indicated that coaches try to limit his throws, but sometimes situations in a game dictate otherwise.
“You work on the range of motion, and then come game time, you never know how it’ll kind of play out,” he said. “You try to stay under 25, 30 throws, but if it’s past that, or if you get hit on it, or you have to run, or you get tackled and you fall on your shoulder, certain things happen. That’s the game of football.”
Newton said he deals with stiffness and muscle tension. But he also said pain has not affected how he throws the ball.
“I think the thing, when you talk to different people who can help you with it, is that there’s not any magical surgery or whatever. It’s just time,” Newton said.
“I’ve tried and done everything. I think the frustration comes from, no matter what you do, you can rub magic dust on it, you can go to this person, go to that person. ...
“Then you just come out, and it’s still the same...
“I’ve been eager to go to (head trainer Ryan Vermillion’s) office, weeks and weeks and weeks and kind of find out what it is. ‘Did you find something? What am I supposed to do? What do we have to do?’
“And then, it is what it is. It is what we expected it to be. ... The same way. It’s not getting better, it’s not getting worse. It is what it was, just a lot of soreness and tension in the joints.”
This week, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said that Newton’s limitations in practice — what head coach Ron Rivera calls a “pitch count” — have, over the course of time, had a trickle-down affect on his timing with his receivers.
Newton said those kinds of issues are more about poor execution than missing practice.
And his frustration comes from not having answers about when he doesn’t have to any more.
“Man, I wish I could tell you,” he said, sighing. “I think the frustration comes when you do any and everything to make sure your body is at peak performance.
“Obviously my arm has not allowed me to do a lot of practice. Been on a pitch count for a long time. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. That’s not a scapegoat. That’s not something I want people to bail me out on. It’s just reality.”
Newton said he doesn’t know how he can come off the pitch count. He said he doesn’t even know if he’s going to have to have a second surgery.
But there’s something we do know, and that Newton likely knows, too.
The conversation Newton, and likely head coach Ron Rivera, are both dreading will come soon — despite Rivera’s claim to the contrary on Monday night.
With two games left, the Panthers are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason. And even if they weren’t, there are bigger issues.
Newton and Rivera must evaluate whether or not it’s becoming a danger to Newton’s long-term health to continue to play this season.
And if they’re honest with themselves and where their season stands, they will mutually decide to shut Newton down.
“I guess if we have to have that conversation, we have that conversation,” said Newton. “I’m not looking forward to that conversation.”
Rivera did not rule out playing Newton for the final two games of the season when he met with reporters on Tuesday, saying that he had not yet met with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion.
“Believe it or not, there’s still a slim glimmer (of hope for the postseason),” Rivera said. “So we’ll see. Again, we’ll continue to focus in on playing football. We’ve got Atlanta coming to town. (For) all intents and purposes, we play to win.
Rivera agreed that if Newton gives the Panthers their best chance at winning, he’d play him.
“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, again, but you know, like I said, I haven’t talked to the doctors, or trainers or Cam himself today. So we’ll wait to have a conversation and see where we are.
“I believe in Cam. So we’ll leave it at that.”