Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been tweaking his mechanics since the arrival of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner in 2018.
But when shoulder issues began to once again hamper Newton mid-season, their work “fell by the wayside” — to quote head coach Ron Rivera — and getting Newton healthy became the top priority.
Now that Newton has continued to progress steadily through his rehabilitation following a January arthroscopic scope, he’s throwing in practice again and is able to re-visit these tweaks as he works back to full participation in workouts.
Scott Turner spoke to reporters Wednesday about the specifics — yes, Newton’s mechanics have been different, both to increase production and to take stress off his shoulder — but how?
Question: (Newton) got a little bit more work in today throwing to moving targets. What have you seen from him so far?
Turner: Everything from Cam going forward has been great. He’s put a lot of work (in) post-procedure, and he’s trying to put himself into a position to be as good as he can be. He’s worked hard to this point and I think for him to get out there and show the enthusiasm and throw the ball — I think he’s throwing well. He’s doing a nice job.
Question: You and Norv wanted to tweak some things mechanically when you came in last year. What specifically did you guys tweak?
Turner: It started specifically last year with his footwork, and keeping compact. Making sure his feet and his eyes were working together. And that’s where we really started. And then it has carried over into this offseason as far as making him a little more compact in his upper body, a little bit more closed-off so he’s not as open throwing the ball. And just to make him as efficient as possible, while putting the least amount of stress on (his arm) — I mean, you’re going to put stress on your arm. It’s throwing a football, it’s not a natural movement. But as little as we can on his shoulder, just to take care of him.
Question: Do you think any of his former throwing mechanics added to the shoulder issues?
Turner: I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. I’ve coached a lot of quarterbacks, and I haven’t ever coached one that doesn’t have some issues with their shoulder. Like I said, you look at pitchers, you look at NFL quarterbacks, throwing overhand is not a natural motion. So you’re going to get some wear and tear on the shoulder. I don’t know that how he threw was any different than guys I’ve had in the past, but I do know that going forward Cam is fully committed to doing everything he can to (be) the best player he can be and then take care of himself.
Question: When he’s throwing more compact, does that also kind of minimize some of the risk you might get (from throwing more open-framed) when you do get hit?
Turner: No. It’s not so much with the hitting, it’s just with the overall throwing mechanics.
Question: How do you get his (muscle-memory) back to the point where he doesn’t revert back to his old throwing style?
Turner: I think just the commitment level right when the season ended this past year — obviously once he could start doing stuff after the procedure — just committing yourself to it. And it’s really not that different. You’re still throwing the ball. It’s just as far as his setup, the way he starts with just being more closed-off. So it’s not that much different. And the work from now until the season is just what will build that muscle memory.
Question: Moving forward, does scheme help as well in terms of taking some stress off (his shoulder)?
Turner: I think so. It’s easier to throw to open guys than covered guys (laughs). If we can get guys open for him, that’s going to help him get the ball out, he’s going to take less hits. The one thing that we worked on with him last year was ‘if it’s not there, get the ball out of your hand.’ Obviously he did that with Christian (McCaffrey), and our tight ends and stuff. So yeah, scheme and implementing in his head about the clock, working your eyes and feed through your progressions and all of those things.
(On scheme matching mechanics) I think it’s a combination. When your feet match your eyes, you’re going to make decisions faster. You’re not just scanning the field. But I think also getting his feet consistent helped the ball go where he wanted it to go. And then the mindset of just getting the ball out of your hand is going to help your completion percentage.
Question: Was it more his feet? Or his shoulder?
Turner: It’s all together. It’s a combination. You can’t say one or the other. Upper body, lower body, when you’re playing quarterback it all works in unison.
Question: You talk about the feet; occasionally he looked to be throwing off his back foot. Is that what you’re trying to eliminate?
Turner: Yeah, weight transfer is a big part of it. The biggest thing, though, is having your hips pointed in the direction of your throw. No different than like a baseball player hitting a baseball, a golfer swinging or a boxer — you generate power with your lower body. So you want your lower body to be moving in the direction of where you’re throwing. If it moves in the opposite direction, you put more stress on the upper body and you have to correct it with your arm. Just having everything working in unison, that’s where it starts — the lower body. Not to get too technical, but you strike the ground with your back foot to generate power, then it moves through your hips into your upper body. If you put your weight on your back foot, the weight isn’t transferring and the power isn’t (transferring). Now Cam is a big, strong guy and he can still get the ball out there. But yes, we work on it. Sometimes there’s a big, 300-pound guy (in your face) and your weight ain’t going forward. You have to make it work a little bit.