Cam Newton injured his ankle twice over the final three games last season, although the injury to the Panthers’ franchise quarterback goes back farther than January.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the ankle issue that required Newton to undergo surgery last week “probably” dates to Newton’s time at Auburn, where Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the national title in 2010 during his only season at the school.
Speaking to reporters at the league’s owners meetings, Rivera said Newton was at Auburn, where he’s again taking classes toward his degree, when he called the Panthers two weeks ago to tell them his left ankle was still bothering him.
Newton had lingering pain in the ankle in previous offseasons, but it would dissipate through rest and rehab. This time the pain didn’t go away.
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So Newton called the Panthers, who advised Newton to come to Charlotte for an MRI and meet with team physician Robert Anderson, a nationally known foot and ankle specialist.
A week later Newton was on the operating table, undergoing surgery March 19 to tighten the ligaments in his troublesome ankle.
“The bottom line is exactly what we said,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. We thought he was OK. Doc Anderson wanted to see if it would calm down on its own. It didn’t, so he had the surgery. That’s it.”
Newton injured his ankle during a Week 16 win against New Orleans, then re-injured it during the playoff loss to San Francisco in January.
“They went through what they do normally,” Rivera said. “Every year it’s been the same thing for the last couple years. This time when he started, after the rest and everything, it wasn’t getting as well as fast as it had last time.
“They went through the (process), looked at it and decided this was the best course of action for him.”
Newton is expected to be sidelined four months and will miss all of the organized team activities this spring.
But Rivera said Newton, who is expected to be back for training camp, will have a chance to develop chemistry with the team’s new receivers.
The Panthers are in the process of making over their entire receiving corps. They signed Tiquan Underwood and Jerricho Cotchery last week after cutting Steve Smith and losing Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon in free agency.
“There will be a time where they’ll get an opportunity to work (with Newton), “ Rivera said. “So I’m not really worried about that.”
The Panthers recently re-signed backup quarterback Derek Anderson to a two-year deal. They also signed former Minnesota quarterback Joe Webb last week.
Rivera said bringing in Webb, the Vikings’ sixth-round pick in 2010 out of UAB, was done for reasons besides having an extra arm behind Anderson during OTAs.
“That’s part of it,” Rivera said, “but this is a guy that does intrigue us.”
Newton has missed only a handful of snaps due to injury during his first three seasons.
The majority of those came during the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ 44-38 win at New Orleans in the final game of the 2012 season.
Newton left the game after twisting his ankle, but returned during the same series to finish off a touchdown drive.