Cam Newton has more reason to flash his signature smile.
The veteran quarterback is scheduled to throw in all quarterback drills when the Panthers open minicamp Tuesday, the team announced Saturday.
It’s the latest stepping stone toward recovery for the former MVP after undergoing shoulder surgery in late January. Newton recently began throwing overhand with a regulation-sized football. The plan for next week is to have him on a pitch count while throwing to stationary targets. It has yet to be determined when he’ll participate in team drills.
“This is all part of the rehab process,” Panthers trainer Ryan Vermillion said, via the team’s official website. “Cam has worked extremely hard this offseason with his rehabilitation and his preparation. He’s going to continue the throwing program Tuesday and we’ll advance it as we monitor his progress. He’s achieved every milestone we’ve set out for him so far in preparation for this.”
It’s appearing as though he’ll reach his biggest summer milestone: being available for the start of his ninth season. After having his throwing shoulder operated on for the second time in less than two years this past winter, initial fears included Newton sitting out all of 2019.
“If you told me that [Newton] took a year off and could be fully recovered and everything else and that’s what it took, an extra year, why wouldn’t you do that?” Panthers owner David Tepper said in January.
That was on the heels of seeing the franchise QB labor through the back half of last season before shutting it down for the final two games. Newton, to his credit, has been determined to get back on the field and by all accounts fully engaged in Carolina’s offseason program.
“He’s done an outstanding job with his rehab and just being accountable to get his shoulder in the best shape possible,” quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said. “Mentally, with me in the classroom, he’s just been great. He understands how important all of this is. He’s progressing and he’s excited about it. We all are. He’s got a chance to have a really great year.”
Despite the pain, Newton didn’t have a bad one last year. He completed a career-high 67.9 percent of his passes — a nine percent hike from his career average — for 3,395 yards and 24 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. But his playmaking was compromised down the stretch as the Panthers lost his final six starts and fell out of the playoff race.
The silver lining to having surgery during the postseason was the chance that Newton could work his way back to full strength before the upcoming season. That’s looking more and more likely for the three-time Pro Bowler.
“Cam’s confidence level is up because he’s pain-free,” Vermillion said. “He feels good about where he is right now — but we’re not done. This is one more step in our process as we get him ready for 2019.”