Falcons May Be Elixir for Newton's Pain
Cam Newton is playing hurt, but he and the Panthers would feel a lot better if they snap out of their two-month funk on Sunday.
Cam Newton is hurt, unless he isn't.
Throughout this season, the Panthers quarterback hasn't looked like the guy that used to run past and away from defenders. He appeared especially less elusive Monday night against the Eagles.
After that blowout loss, a FOX Sports report said Newton had a right foot injury in addition to soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle and in the ribs he cracked during the preseason. Head coach Ron Rivera refuted the report Tuesday. On Wednesday, Newton acknowledged he's not well, but he denied he's dealing with any extra injuries.
“If you’re asking me am I hurt right now, yeah, I’m hurt. I haven’t felt 100 percent in a long time," Newton said. "But is that going to hinder anything, or be an excuse of why we’re on a losing streak? No, absolutely not."
The Panthers have another shot to snap out of their two-month long funk at home Sunday against the Falcons, but Newton will probably continue to look the same.
No one who's played nine straight weeks of NFL football is going to be completely healthy, particularly a player who's been hit as often as Newton. His ankle and ribs won't feel 100 percent until after the season, but he refuses to use his health as an excuse.
“I’m not playing great ball," Newton admitted.
“The truth of the matter is we’re losing, and somebody tries to point fingers and say this and that about why we’re not winning. And if you want to put the blame on me not being 100 percent, then so be it. But I know that if we were on a four-game winning streak, nobody would really care about that. It’s all about worrying about how to get a win. When you win everything else works out fine.”
This isn't a chicken or the egg situation, though. Because Newton's playing with multiple lingering injuries, it's affecting the Panthers' chances to win. That doesn't mean he should be pulled for backup Derek Anderson, but if Newton were healthier, the Panthers might be winning more, and he wouldn't have to face so many questions about injuries.
“I know it all comes down to me. Everybody wants to ask questions about, ‘Why are the Carolina Panthers struggling on offense?’ And the first person you’re going to look at is the quarterback," Newton said. "I’ll be the first person to admit I haven’t been playing great. I know that. I will take responsibility and tell you that things will be better in the future.”
But one of Newton's other issues is how he plays when he takes on too much responsibility. Over the last month, Rivera and Newton both admitted that he's been pressing. Because of a suspect supporting cast, the Panthers' best playmaker frequently tries to make too many plays, which often leads to too many errors.
“You can’t sit back and put the weight of the world on your shoulders and feel like everything is your fault because we’re all in this together," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "It’s not about looking for Cam to do everything. He can’t feel like that, and I hope he doesn’t feel like that.”
Despite all the drama that surrounds a team when it hasn't won in a month and a half, the Panthers have not lost faith in Newton. If anything, they didn't give up on him soon enough Monday night.
Even though the Panthers were down 45-7 early in the 4th quarter, and Newton was getting battered with a career-high nine sacks, he finished the game. It was a questionable and risky decision by Rivera, who wanted Newton and the offense to establish a rhythm.
“This game is different now. When you get players that want to step up and play hurt, that's the quote, unquote warrior mentality that seems to be lost a little bit," Rivera said. "But at the same time, like I’ve always said, I’m not going to put him in harms way. He’s our franchise quarterback, he’s a guy that we believe in, and believe me, I’m going to stick with him.”
A win Sunday would go a long way in slowing down a season that appears to be spiraling in all the wrong directions. And after running a gauntlet of five straight games against teams with winning records that all went to the playoff last season, the (3-6) Falcons could be what the Panthers need.
“I just want to win. I want to get back to everybody having a smile in the press conference. This gloomy feeling. The walls even look bland. They’ve always been the same color, but I just want to have that colorful vibe back in the room," Newton said.
"How are we going to get there? The Panthers win.”