The Carolina Panthers are holding out quarterback Cam Newton from Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons due to his ailing right shoulder, coach Ron Rivera told reporters on Wednesday.
Newton will likely miss the regular-season finale against the New Orleans Saints as well, but the team elected not to put him on injured reserve.
“He’ll be on the 53-man (roster) all the way through,” Rivera said. “Crazy enough things can happen, and we’ll see from there.”
Newton has been dealing with soreness for close to two months while Carolina’s season has unraveled with six straight defeats.
The Panthers (6-8) aren’t officially eliminated from the playoffs, but their hopes are highly slim, so the team brass — including Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney — decided shutting down Newton against the Falcons was best for the signal caller’s shoulder.
“He understood our thinking behind this,” Rivera said. “He’s disappointed. He’s frustrated. He wants to play. We had a great conversation, he understands going forward what we have to do.”
Taylor Heinicke will be Carolina’s starting quarterback on Sunday against the Falcons.
“We had the opportunity to visit with the doctors, the trainers and Cam himself,” Rivera said. “In talking with Marty and the owner (David Tepper), obviously we felt our best opportunity to win a football game was to have a healthy Taylor to start this week.”
Newton was largely ineffective in Monday night’s 12-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He was 16-of-29 passing for a season-low 131 yards and was intercepted once. His long completion was 22 yards.
The 29-year-old Newton expressed frustration after the loss.
“I wish I could say what the injury is because I don’t really know what it is either,” Newton told reporters. “No matter how much you push, no matter how much you ice, the anti-inflammatory you take. Trust me, I’ve done it. Acupuncture, massages. There’s not a night that goes by without me getting some type of work done on my arm.
“You just don’t have the strength. From the range of motion, you work on the range of motion then come game time and you never know how the game can play out. Of course you try to stay under 25-30 throws, but if you surpass that or you get hit on it or you have to run or you get tackled and fall on your shoulder, certain things happen. That’s the game of football.”
Receiver Jarius Wright said opposing defensive backs were making comments such as “we’re not scared of you guys going deep,” as they noticed Newton couldn’t throw downfield.
Center Ryan Kalil feels shutting down Newton is the prudent approach for the organization.
“He’s still a young guy and he’s got a lot of football left in him,” Kalil told reporters. “I think it is important to get that right, especially at his position. It’s no secret that he has been struggling with it the last month or so. But I feel bad for him. I feel terrible for him.”
Newton previously underwent surgery on the shoulder in March 2017.
The 25-year-old Heinicke has completed 2 of 4 passes for 46 yards this season. He also completed one pass for the Houston Texans last season. Heinicke has been inserted multiple times to throw Hail Mary passes for Newton when the Panthers needed the deep throw made.
Heinicke threw 132 touchdown passes in college at Old Dominion but went undrafted in 2015.
Rookie Kyle Allen (Texas A&M) is expected to be promoted from the practice squad to be the backup.
The Panthers also placed kicker Graham Gano (knee) on injured reserve and signed tight end Jason Vander Laan from the practice squad. Chandler Catanzaro filled in for Gano the past two games and is slated to finish the season with the club.
—Field Level Media