Cam Newton is clearly not at the top of his game. He entered the NFL with one of the strongest arms in the league and turned downfield passing into a hallmark of the Carolina Panthers’ offense. For the first time in his career, Newton has had to step off the field in crucial, late-game situations to let his back-up attempt a desperation Hail Mary because his own arm isn’t up to the task. He hasn’t looked quite right since undergoing successful surgery to address a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in March 2017.
These surgeries take time to recover from, according to Dr. Bradford Parsons, Chief of Shoulder Surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital. “Full recovery is the goal,” he said, “but everyone’s timeline is different.” Dr. Parsons has not treated or examined Newton, but has experience with similar sports-related injuries.
He wanted to make it clear that every patient gradually recovers their strength and range of motion. With Newton putting a tremendous amount of strain on his shoulder by playing in the NFL, it isn’t surprising that he is still having to take rest days during the week. Cris Carter told Cat Scratch Reader last week that the second half of the season was all about veterans managing small injuries, and that wasn’t even accounting for Newton’s rehabilitation after his surgery.
Dr. Parsons also warned against using previous high profile shoulder injuries like the ones suffered by Drew Brees or Andrew Luck as measuring sticks for Newton. Brees miraculously returned from what could have been a career ending injury. Luck, meanwhile, re-injured his throwing shoulder outside of football and greatly extended his own recovery time. These aren’t Newton’s story.
The optimism that can be drawn from their stories is that both Brees and Luck returned from ostensibly more serious shoulder injuries than Newton suffered. Brees was back in less than a year, and Luck took a famously long time to recover, but they both came back to throwing the football at a high level. There may be more information about the exact nature of Newton’s shoulder injury than has been made public, but what has been reported can be put firmly in the “it could have been worse” category when compared to the labral tears of Luck or Brees.
Panthers fans who like to claim that the sky is falling over Bank of America stadium often start with one of two arguments. First, they like to cry that it has been too long since Newton’s original surgery and he must have hit his ceiling in terms of recovery. When asked specifically if Newton’s shoulder could still be healing or improving, Dr. Parsons responded that “yes, he could continue to build up strength in his arm and increase its durability as he recovers over time.”
The second concern is that Newton is almost over the hill, in NFL terms. With his 30th birthday next year, the argument goes, there is cause for concern that he is getting too old to effectively recover and he will be a limited passer for the rest of his career. Dr. Parsons was also very firm in his opinion on that subject: “At the age of 29 he’s still a young guy who has a great chance of healing. Age isn’t a factor in how he heals.”
That is a huge relief for Panthers fans who were worried about the long term risks to the career of their favorite quarterback. Cam hopefully won’t be behind any desperation heaves to Ted Ginn, Jr. come Monday night against the New Orleans Saints, but his days of deep passing aren’t behind him. It is always possible that there is information about his shoulder health that isn’t public or that he injures his throwing shoulder again, but for now another year of healing should be nothing but good for Newton’s future.