Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman told reporters on Friday that the team had conversations in December about shutting down quarterback Cam Newton, just as they did with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, but opted against it.
The Panthers decided to let the 2015 NFL MVP play with no chance of making the playoffs, whereas Kuechly sat the final three games after being cleared from the concussion protocol.
“Cam’s a football player,” Gettleman said. “He wanted to play, and the medical people thought it was fine, and he did.”
Newton is dealing with a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder that will require surgery, after he suffered the injury in a Week 14 win against San Diego on Dec. 11. He was listed on the injury report as limited for the final three games and didn’t throw early in the week.
Newton never missed a game. Kuechly, however, sat out — according to the team, for his long-term health — despite being cleared after his second concussion in two seasons.
After attempting to heal the injury with rest and rehab during the offseason, Newton is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday that will force him to miss the offseason workout program and a June minicamp.
Gettleman said he believes Newton will be ready to throw when training camp opens in late July, just as the team medical staff is projecting with a recovery time of 12-16 weeks.
He said the situations with Newton and Kuechly were “two completely different cases, and I’m not going to go there.”
But Kuechly wanted to play as well.
“I have said it a million times: I want to play and I want to be out there with the guys,” Kuechly said in December after being cleared from the protocol. “I want to play, but they’re the boss, and I’ve got to listen to what the boss says. So whatever they decide is going to be the plan.”
The plan with Newton never was to sit him, which in hindsight would have given the injury another month to heal on its own.
The only time coach Ron Rivera mentioned sitting the first pick of the 2011 draft was during the final game — a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay.
“I thought Cam Newton was about as courageous as it gets,” Rivera said after the game. “He didn’t want to come out. He tried to make some throws that he probably shouldn’t have.”
Said Newton after the game: “They asked me could I go. I said I could and that was the end of it.”
Rivera maintained down the stretch that, for Newton, it was about pain management and there was no
danger of making the injury worse.
He also said the week after the injury occurred that an MRI on the shoulder was clear. Head trainer Ryan Vermillion said this week in a detailed report on the team website that the initial MRI revealed the partial tear.
“The bottom line, my integrity and the integrity of the organization is very important,” Gettleman said. “Our owner [Jerry Richardson] is old-school. I’m old-school, so it makes it easy for me.
“At the end of the day it is what it is. We’ve been very transparent. Ron’s as transparent as any head coach in the league, and I know I am as well. My integrity is very important to me. The facts are the facts. Ryan laid it out, and we’ll keep moving.”