Carolina Panthers

Panthers are ‘cautiously optimistic’ Cam Newton will play Week 1 vs. the LA Rams

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been diagnosed with a left mid-foot sprain, and it might not cost him regular-season playing time.

X-rays ruled out a fracture, and Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the team is “cautiously optimistic” Newton will be cleared to play in the Sept. 8 opener, at home against the Los Angeles Rams. Newton was sacked by New England Patriots lineman Adam Butler on the play he was injured in the first quarter of Thursday’s 10-3 preseason loss. It was the second time Newton was sacked Thursday.

Newton left the game with a slight limp and was shown grimacing as medical personnel checked his left foot on the sideline. He walked under his own power to the training room and never returned to the sideline. Newton was fitted with a protective boot before he left Gillette Stadium.

Those boots are a standard precaution in such situations to limit swelling of injured joints.

Thursday, the Panthers’ third exhibition, was the first time Newton played this preseason, though he has practiced extensively. He and the other Panthers starters were not expected to play in the final preseason game Aug. 29 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Newton suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder last December and had off-season surgery. After being hindered in games and sitting out most practices, the Panthers sat him out of the season’s final two games last season.

A former NFL MVP in 2015, Newton is crucial to the Panthers’ chances this season, not just for his impact but because the Panthers’ backups at quarterback are unproven and have looked unreliable. Kyle Allen and rookie Will Grier have been competing for the backup spots. Allen completed 3-of-6 passes Thursday for 16 yards. Grier, a third-round pick, completed 4-of-8 for 44 yards.