Three men rank as the Carolina Panthers’ leaders in every major passing category.
So I called up and asked the other two – Jake Delhomme and Steve Beuerlein – what they thought about that surgery and how the Panthers have handled a situation in which Newton will ultimately have surgery 110 days after first sustaining the injury.
Delhomme said if he could boil down his advice to two words for Panthers fans, it would be these: “Don’t panic.”
“You have to think of what sort of shoulder injury that Drew Brees came back from – it was way, way worse than this,” Delhomme said. “It always seems like people are on the verge of panicking when a quarterback has an injury to his throwing arm, but I don’t foresee this as being the kind of thing that affects Cam that much.”
Said Beuerlein, who has had 21 surgeries in his lifetime related to football injuries but never one on a rotator cuff: “I’m sure it will be a non-issue. But you do look at it now and say: ‘Why do you waste three months before the surgery?’ My mentality was always to eliminate the doubt in the offseason, go ahead and fix what needs fixing through surgery, rehab it and move on. On the other hand, I have no doubt the Panthers thought this through from every angle and had agreed on a decision date as to when surgery would have to be done by – if needed – so Cam would be ready for training camp. So I actually expect he will be ready for camp.”
Delhomme had a serious issue with his throwing elbow while with the Panthers, but he has never undergone a rotator cuff surgery either. However, he saw firsthand when another quarterback played through one late in the season in 2002 much like Newton did in 2016 in the final three games.
“Aaron Brooks had a very similar injury in 2002 – a partial rotator cuff tear on his throwing shoulder – when I was his backup with New Orleans,” Delhomme said. “And he played OK in the final few games of the season with it. That team kind of imploded, but not because of the way Aaron played.”
Brooks then underwent offseason surgery – but he had it in mid-January as opposed to late March.
‘He will feel old pretty soon’
Beuerlein said he felt the larger issue for Newton was the number of big hits he keeps taking – Newton suffered a concussion last season after one of those when he slowed down just before the end zone against Atlanta. He ultimately missed one game because of that blow.
When I mentioned that I thought the Panthers had to get Newton more help on offense during April’s draft to address this, Beuerlein said: “Yes, but some of it Cam has to address himself. He brings some of those shots on himself sometimes by holding the ball too long or not protecting himself. He’s still young enough (Newton is 27) that he can recover from surgeries well, but if he keeps taking those kinds of shots during his career he will feel old pretty soon.”
Newton will miss some of the Panthers’ offseason work before training camp, but Delhomme said that wouldn’t matter much.
“That’s not really significant for Cam in the way it would be for a young quarterback,” Delhomme said. “It’s not like he’s going to a new offensive system. He’s got more or less the same cast of characters in terms of coaches and players, except we can all hope they give him some more help on offense. That will help him a lot. He can still be in the meetings, he just can’t throw.”
Getting the swagger back
Beuerlein, a longtime national TV broadcaster, said he ultimately expected Newton to have a big year in 2017.
“There are some young quarterbacks who started off with a lot of success – like Colin Kaepernick or RG3 (Robert Griffin III) – and then have struggled,” Beuerlein said. “They have never really gotten their swagger back. I don’t think that will be a problem with Cam, though. Last season I think the natural reaction for the Panthers – not just Cam, but everybody – was to think, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good.’ All of a sudden you get hit in the mouth a few times and you’re going, ‘Wait a minute, don’t you understand? We played in the Super Bowl!’ I think this year that Cam will be a man on a mission.”