As the offseason progresses, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera seems less and less concerned about the health of franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
“Probably the biggest thing I can tell you is what (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion updates us, and just that everything is progressing very well,” said Rivera, addressing media at the 2019 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Thursday morning.
“He’s been going through his rehab sessions, and everything has been positive.”
That optimism is a big change from the 2018 season, when Newton began reporting shoulder soreness in Week 8 and struggled with pain and limited movement until sitting out the final two games of the year.
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Newton had shoulder surgery in January, his second in two years. The latest surgery was not a repair, however, but an arthroscopic procedure that included a “scope” (a tiny camera inserted into the area to assess any potential ligament damage), and arthroscopic irrigation and debridement. That is essentially a clean-out procedure.
Dr. Pat Connor, who performed the procedure, informed Newton that cartilage damage in his shoulder was a lot less severe than predicted prior to inserting the scope, according to a video blog released by Newton in February.
Rivera told the Observer in January that he spoke to Newton after the procedure, and Newton happily informed him that he had already gotten a lot of his range of motion back.
Rivera also said that if the Panthers decide to add quarterback depth behind Newton, it will come in the draft as opposed to free agency. Such a selection would give the Panthers a player they could develop within their system, which Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney have expressed a desire for in past seasons.
“I know the last few years we have looked at taking a quarterback,” said Rivera. “A couple of times, a guy we liked got taken before we got a chance to. The only reason you do that is to increase your depth.”
Other than top prospects Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, this draft class is not considered strong where quarterback is concerned. That means if they do decide to draft a quarterback, he will likely be selected in the later rounds.
“I think this is a really good draft in terms of quality depth at lot of positions,” said Rivera. “Quarterback is not as deep as it’s been in the past but the guys they do have are quality guys.”
Rivera made one thing clear: Carolina isn’t looking for a starter. The Panthers want someone they can develop into a long-term backup over several years.
And that player could already be on the roster, in Rivera’s mind.
“We like who we have at our depth positions right now. We think both (Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen) came in and played well, and showed us that they’re more than capable backups.
“And again, we’re really pleased with Cam’s progress so far this offseason, based on the reports I’m getting from Ryan Vermillion.”