Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton ‘ready to roll’ for Panthers training camp, but what does that really mean?

Panthers fans, rest easy: the plan for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is still a go.

Newton had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January to help alleviate some of the shoulder tightness and stiffness he experienced last season, and the team has long maintained that Newton would be a full participant in training camp. Newton threw some at mandatory minicamp in June, but training camp will be crucial both for developing camaraderie with his pass-catchers and for continuing to learn Norv Turner’s offense.

During move-in day at Wofford College on Wednesday, coach Ron Rivera confirmed Newton will be able to participate in training camp, even if Rivera hadn’t yet spoken to head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion.

“We believe he’s ready to roll,” Rivera said. “We have a plan. Obviously, it’s gonna be structured around our installation, so based on the things that we have going on with our install, (that) will dictate what he does. All of his reps will be monitored, they’ll be scripted out, and we’ll follow that pattern as we go through it.”

Rivera said that he, Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner recently sat down to discuss the plan for Newton during camp. That conversation included coming to the decision that Newton’s reps would be managed and tracked, similar to the “pitch count” he was on during the latter half of 2018.

As far as details go with how far will Newton be allowed to throw during camp and what his preseason looks like, the answer to those questions will be revealed in time.

The team won’t rush Newton back before he’s ready, something they are especially conscious of after the way he responded to his last shoulder surgery in 2017. That was to repair a partially torn rotator cuff, and the lingering effects of that surgery were the reason for Newton’s “cleanout” procedure in January to clear scar tissue and cartilage buildup.

For now, expect Newton to participate in the team’s first training camp practice Thursday evening, as well as throughout the next three weeks.

“They’re going to pay attention to the reps and see how he is the next morning every day,” Rivera said. “He had a good offseason, he had a good break from what we’re being told, and again, the proof will be in the pudding.”

PUP list and roster moves

Newton is far from the only injured Panther worth keeping an eye on the next three weeks. A few choice examples: center Matt Paradis, tackle/guard Daryl Williams, tight end Ian Thomas and cornerback Ross Cockrell.

Luckily for the Panthers, all of those key names will be active to begin training camp. General manager Marty Hurney confirmed Wednesday that only three Panthers — receiver Torrey Smith, linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., and linebacker Brandon Chubb — will begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Players have until the end of the preseason to be taken off the PUP list, or else they are not allowed to practice the first six weeks of the season.

“It’s more that we were very cautious. (Torrey’s) doing well. With him and Jermaine, it’s just (that they are) not quite 100 percent,” Hurney said. “We can bring them off active PUP at any time.”

The Panthers also made several roster moves later in the afternoon Wednesday, including waiving former Charlotte Catholic and UNC running back Elijah Hood. The team also waived guard Ian Silberman (non-football illness) and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls (non-football injury).

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The corresponding moves are the team signed former Jaguars receiver Jaydon Mickens, as well as guard Norman Price and defensive lineman Bijhon Jackson. Mickens should compete to be the team’s starting kickoff returner.

Brian Burns signs rookie contract

Panthers first-round pick Brian Burns signed his rookie contract Wednesday upon arriving in Spartanburg.

Burns, a speedy defensive end/outside linebacker from Florida State, was the Panthers’ lone unsigned draft pick and one of just a handful of unsigned first-rounders.

Given the way the current rookie wage scale is structured, there isn’t much flexibility in negotiating rookie contracts. Some of the smaller language is still negotiable, but otherwise, first-round picks largely slot into a predetermined salary system. According to that system, Burns’ rookie deal should be worth about $13.5 million over four years, with the standard team option for a fifth year.

Hurney confirmed that the holdup in Burns signing his deal was indeed some of that smaller language.

“These days (with) the draft choices, the money’s pretty much what it is,” Hurney said. “It was just a language issue that we were always confident we were going to get done, and we got it done. He got here on time, which I think was very important.”

Training camp in Spartanburg for final time?

This training camp is notable for a number of football-specific reasons, everything ranging from Newton’s shoulder to highly-touted draft picks and free agents. But there’s also the matter of where training camp is held, something that remains undetermined for the future.

The Panthers are in their final contractual year of hosting training camp at Wofford, the alma mater of former team owner Jerry Richardson. With the team building a multi-use practice complex in Rock Hill, there are questions about whether Carolina will return to Spartanburg again in 2020. Construction on that facility is not expected to be finished for several years.

Rivera said that while he doesn’t know where training camp will be in the years to come, he does appreciate what Wofford has offered the team as a host venue.

“I really can’t tell you. I mean, I really don’t know,” Rivera said. “All I know is that we’re here at Wofford, it’s been a great facility for us, they’ve taken great care of us. I really do appreciate everything that they’ve done, and we’ll see what happens from here.”

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Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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