Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton returns to practice in limited action, but another Panther stays sidelined

After Andrew Luck’s sudden and surprising retirement from the NFL on Saturday, suddenly Cam Newton’s foot sprain with the Carolina Panthers doesn’t seem so bad.

That’s especially true after Newton was back at practice Monday and without a protective boot on his left foot.

Newton did his normal pre-practice shoulder exercises, coach Ron Rivera confirmed, as well as some limited throwing.

“He’s basically just striding (his throws) out right now, not driving off of his leg or anything like that,” Rivera said. “I didn’t get the number of how many throws he made, but he threw it and threw it pretty well today, so we’re excited. He didn’t really drop back.”

Newton initially sprained his left foot during the first quarter of the team’s preseason loss to New England on Thursday. On the play in question, Newton made several jump cuts before eventually being grabbed around the lower leg and sacked. He limped off the field after the play and did not return.

General manager Marty Hurney said Friday he was “cautiously optimistic” Newton would be able to play Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. Following up, Rivera said Newton is still on schedule for what trainers have planned for him.

“Yes, we feel very good about it,” Rivera said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning, and hopefully he feels fine so he can go out and throw some more.”

Newton was never expected to participate in the team’s preseason finale this Thursday against Pittsburgh, so it’s instead a countdown to see if his foot will be healed in two weeks.

‘It is uneasy’ not having seen Gano kick

While Newton’s foot injury stole preseason headlines recently, that’s far from the only notable injury lingering with the Panthers.

Kicker Graham Gano, who missed the last four games of last season with a plant leg injury, has yet to kick in the preseason. He’s also been limited during parts of training camp, prompting the team to sign former Virginia Tech kicker Joey Slye. Slye’s teammates have jokingly called him “swole kicker,” but he’s as deserving of the name for his leg strength as for his bulky physical appearance.

Slye has gone 6-for-6 in three preseason games, including two makes of more than 50 yards.

Rivera had previously said after the team’s first preseason game against Chicago that he wasn’t worried about Gano’s injury. But he couldn’t confirm Monday whether Gano will kick this week or not.

“Well, we’ll see. Hopefully what’ll happen is, in the next day or two as he continues going through his process of working back to health, we’ll know whether he’s going to kick or not,” Rivera said. “If he’s able to, he most certainly will. That’s for sure.”

Rivera has said throughout camp that Gano, when healthy, is one of the league’s most trustworthy veteran kickers. And while he reiterated that Monday, he did acknowledge some new apprehension.

“It is uneasy, to be honest with you,” Rivera said. “Because again, you want him to be able to kick to make sure everything’s fine. We’ll know hopefully in the next day or two.”

Roster notes

Defensive tackle Vernon Butler Jr. (quad) returned to practice Monday.

Cornerback Kevon Seymour continued working his way back from a nagging hamstring injury.

Reserve defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson threw his helmet at the ground at practice Monday after apparently hurting himself. Trainers and nose tackle Dontari Poe shortly came over to check on Jackson.

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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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