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Ron Rivera Doesn’t Update Cam Newton’s Status Because He Can’t

If it wasn’t already clear after the Carolina Panthers waited a month on linebacker Luke Kuechly last year, consider this week as another reminder: A player’s return from a concussion is impossible to predict.

If quarterback Cam Newton broke a bone or pulled a ligament Sunday in Atlanta, we’d probably have a good sense of his recovery schedule. But Newton injured his brain, and while we can’t see the severity, we should at least understand by now that a concussion is the least predictable injury in the NFL.

So even though it’s a reporter’s job to ask a coach about the status of his most important player, there’s not much that coach can say in return.

Can you give us an update on your quarterback?

“In the protocol,” answered Ron Rivera on Thursday.

But as far as potentially playing Monday night?

“He's in the protocol.”

There is one piece of info Rivera could reveal, but he declined to share whether Newton’s still in the first stage of the protocol or if he’s at least been cleared for light activities.

Even if the NFL and NFLPA weren’t currently conducting joint investigations about how the Panthers’ medical staff and independent neurologists responded after Newton took multiple helmet-to-helmet hits in Week One against the Broncos, Rivera would likely be sensitive toward a line of concussion questions. But this is the reigning NFL MVP, so questions will persist until Newton returns.

Because of Newton’s remarkable durability despite taking the most hits in the league since 2011, this is just the third time Rivera’s had to worry about his quarterback’s game week status. The first came in 2014, when Newton, who was coming off offseason ankle surgery, cracked a rib in the preseason.

He felt good enough to face the Bucs in that season opener. Rivera disagreed.

“I know the first time I made the decision not to play Cam, I found out how much he wants to play,” Rivera recalled. “That was a little bit of a struggle to get him to see it our way.”

Newton was much more accepting of the second time, which came later in 2014 after he crawled out of his wrecked truck with two broken bones in his back.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-5-27-58-pmThis time, the decision is out of Rivera’s hands.

“There's a lot more people involved,” he said. “There’s a protocol and we'll go through that. And at the end of the day, too, it's also how he feels.

“I don't want to compare this to anything else because they're all different and they're all individuals, but same thing for Luke. We weren't going to put him out there until he was absolutely ready and at the end of the day he was the only one who could tell us.”

After Kuechly had suffered a concussion in last year’s season opener, it didn’t take long for him to start showing up at practice. He was in a baseball cap, but many assumed his attendance meant he was close to coming back.

Kuechly ended up missing three games, finally returning after the bye week. That Week Six game in Seattle was 34 days after his concussion.

Like Kuechly, Newton now has to pass a series of neuropsychological exams before he can even return to practice. Once that happens, both a Panthers’ physician and an independent neurologist have to clear him to play in a game.

Notice who’s not involved in those steps?

“I'm going to listen to exactly what I'm told,” Rivera said. “That's the thing I want everybody to understand. I'm going to do exactly what the doctors, the professionals, the people that study this tell me. Then I'm going to the young man and treat him exactly like I treated Luke Kuechly. That's exactly how we're going to treat (left tackle) Michael Oher.

“These guys are in the protocol. We follow the protocol. We’ve never had any issues with the protocol. We're not forcing players to get onto the football field. We will do exactly what the protocol tells us and the doctors and the experts tell us.”

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One thought on “Ron Rivera Doesn’t Update Cam Newton’s Status Because He Can’t”

  1. If Cam is still this messed up (vice this just being precautionary) then perhaps it lends credence to the claim that he was indeed fine after those hits taken in Week 1. Then again, this could be a cumulative effect.

    I’ve had two concussions – both occurred in my early adolescence from bicycle wrecks. I don’t remember the immediate circumstances or events associated with either, but as far I can tell I’ve never had any long-term effects from either (or both). But then again, you don’t know what you don’t know…

    Anyways, here’s to hoping Cam gets better, for his own well-being above all else.

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