Cam Newton made a lot of sense Thursday. And even if it wasn’t his intention, he also had his coach’s back.
When the Carolina Panthers quarterback was asked about Ron Rivera’s call to hold linebacker Luke Kuechly out against the Redskins, a decision that will likely be repeated the next two weekends, Newton replied:
“Luke is a person that could potentially be the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. … I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that for the long term just to bring him back.”
Which is precisely what Rivera’s weighing while trying to finish a disappointing season with at least eight wins.
“I think it’s awesome,” Rivera said of Newton’s comments.
“It shows to me a little confidence in us. ‘We got this, Luke. We’ll take care of it,’ really, to me, is what he’s saying. I think it’s a hell of a message.”
The Panthers still have a “slim chance” to sneak into the playoffs, but Rivera again admitted he’s going to err on the side of caution. So while Kuechly hasn’t yet been ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Falcons, there’s little reason to believe this week’s decision will be different from last week’s.
“(The doctors) gave me all the information I needed to know,” Rivera said. “He’s out of the (concussion) protocol, and that’s probably the most basic thing that everybody seems to forget. The decision we make from this point is through the discussions I have with Dave (Gettleman) and Luke.
“He’ll lobby, but I’ve got to make sure at the end of the day when I sit down and talk and visit with Dave, I make the best decision going forward.”
Defensive end Ryan Delaire is the only player listed on the Panthers’ status report. He’s out after suffering a knee injury at Washington.
Everyone else who was on the injury report this week, including tight end Greg Olsen (elbow) and defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), will face the Falcons.
Atlanta, meanwhile, listed just two players on its status report: tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (concussion) are both out.