SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Cam Newton will open training camp on a pitch count as the Carolina Panthers hope to avoid a setback like their franchise quarterback experienced in 2017, following the first of two shoulder surgeries.
Newton threw with few limitations the first four days of the 2017 camp following surgery to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff, and then was shut down for more than a week after developing soreness.
January arthroscopic surgery to clean up scar tissue went well and team officials believe Newton will be ready to start the 2019 season, but they are taking a cautious approach.
“All of his reps will be monitored,” coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday as the Panthers reported to camp at Wofford College. “There will be a [pitch] count, obviously. They’re going to pay attention to the reps and see how he is the next morning every day.”
Newton threw on a limited basis during a June minicamp, a positive sign he was progressing ahead of schedule. Most of those throws were short to midrange as the Panthers focused on the quarterback’s mechanics in hopes of putting less of stress on the shoulder.
Rivera wouldn’t say how long it would be before Newton throws deep passes, something Newton couldn’t do at the end of last season.
“Well, we’ll see,” Rivera said. “We believe he’s ready to roll. He had a good offseason, He had a good break, from what we’re being told. The proof will be in the pudding. We’ll get to see tomorrow exactly.”
The Panthers will hold their first practice on Thursday evening. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel, one of several skill players who worked with Newton prior to camp, isn’t concerned over how much the quarterback throws initially.
“Cam is going to be Cam,” he said. “He’s healthy. He’s just got to do what he’s got to do.”
Newton came into camp last season feeling physically the best he has in several years. After throwing 22 passes in the fourth quarter of a Week 7 come-from-behind win at Philadelphia, Newton began experiencing soreness in the shoulder and the training staff began shutting him down in practice most of the week.
He took a hard hit on the shoulder three games later at Pittsburgh, and the soreness progressively got so bad Newton admittedly couldn’t throw more than 30 yards.
The 2015 NFL MVP was shut down the final two games. The Panthers, who began the season with a 6-2 record, were mired in what then was a six-game losing streak and were out of playoff contention.
“We have a plan,” Rivera said. “Obviously, it will be structured around our [game] installation. So based on the things that we have going on with our install will dictate what he does. All of his reps will be monitored and scripted out and we will just follow that as we go through.”