As the 2019 season approached, any doubt about Cam Newton’s ability to play quarterback for the Panthers effectively was related to his offseason shoulder surgery. He missed most of Carolina’s spring practices as he recovered, eventually throwing in training camp and erasing much of the uncertainty regarding his ability to throw the ball deep.
Then, one play in the first quarter of the Panthers’ third preseason game changed everything.
On a third-down play against the Patriots, Newton, seeing his first game action since his shoulder surgery, scrambled away from New England’s pass rush but eventually was sacked. He immediately grabbed his left foot. This relatively unsuspecting play might have been the beginning of the end of Newton’s tenure in Carolina.
On Nov. 5, Newton was placed on injured reserve, a move that all but ended his 2019 season. The foot injury suffered in that Patriots preseason game, initially called a sprain and eventually revealed to be a Lisfranc injury, had not been healing at a rate quick enough for the 2015 NFL MVP to safely return to the field.
Because the ninth-year pro has just one year left on his current contract beyond 2019, many including Sporting News suspect Newton’s trip to IR will mark the end of his Panthers career. Of course, he could still return for the playoffs should Carolina reach the postseason.
Newton played through his foot injury in the Panthers’ first two games this season, but his disastrous outing against the Buccaneers in Week 2 led him and the team to realize the three-time Pro Bowler needed time to heal.
That process, which could still include surgery, is underway as the Panthers move forward with Kyle Allen as their unquestioned starter. Below is all you need to know about Newton’s injury:
How long will Cam Newton be out?
When the Panthers placed Newton on injured reserve on Nov. 5, they all but ended his 2019 season.
Players on IR must remain on the inactive list for at least eight weeks before they can return. That means Newton technically could return to the Panthers’ lineup should Carolina make the playoffs. However, Newton reportedly is considering a surgery that would seal his status for the rest of the season no matter how far Carolina advances.
Regardless of whether Newton has surgery, SN contributor and former NFL team executive Jeff Diamond believes his time in Carolina is done.
“The biggest problem for Newton is his timing contract-wise,” Diamond writes. “Had he negotiated a new deal before the injuries piled up, with $100 million or so in guarantees now common with quality starting QBs, (Panthers general manager Marty) Hurney and coach Ron Rivera would be forced to be patient while Newton recovers from his foot injury before returning him to the lineup next season. But with Newton’s contract having just one season to go, the $2 million dead money hit on the Panthers’ salary cap is easy to absorb while they reap a $19 million cap savings once he is released.”
SN’s Vinnie Iyer has pinned the six best fits for Newton in 2020 and beyond should the Panthers trade or cut Newton.
What is Cam Newton’s injury?
Though the Panthers initially claimed Newton was dealing with a mid-foot sprain, he in fact has a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. The Athletic originally reported the nature of Newton’s injury, which the QB later confirmed in a YouTube video.
According to the Medical News Today, “a Lisfranc fracture is an injury affecting the middle of the foot. It is often confused with a sprain because of the similar causes and symptoms. … a Lisfranc injury can occur in the bones, joints or ligaments of the Lisfranc joint complex in the middle foot.”
Lisfranc injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat, which helps explain why the Panthers insisted for so long Newton did not have a timetable for his recovery.
According to NFL Media, Newton is considering surgery to repair the Lisfranc injury in his foot. The procedure would come with “a recovery time of eight-to-10 weeks — three months at the most” and would allow the quarterback to be ready for the 2020 offseason program.
Cam Newton injury timeline
Newton originally hurt his foot in the first quarter of the Panthers’ Week 3 preseason game against the Patriots. He grabbed his left foot after he was sacked on a third down. After receiving attention on the sideline, Newton returned to Carolina’s locker room and was later seen leaving Gillette Stadium in a walking boot.
The Panthers told reporters Newton was dealing with a mid-foot sprain, and they were optimistic he would be ready for their regular season opener against the Rams. Sure enough, Newton started against Los Angeles and played again when Carolina hosted Tampa Bay in Week 2.
That Bucs game, though, was a disaster; Newton clearly could not run in the Panthers’ loss. After the game, he admitted he had to do some “soul searching” but brushed off questions about his foot injury.
A few days later, the Panthers claimed Newton re-aggravated his foot sprain in the Tampa Bay game, adding that he would be evaluated with no timetable for a return. He eventually was ruled out for Carolina’s Week 3 game in Arizona, and again for its Week 4 game in Houston.
On Sept. 24, a few days prior to that Texans game, The Athletic reported Newton was dealing with a Lisfranc injury rather than a sprained foot. The plan, though, didn’t change, as Newton continued his recovery process and the team hoped he would return when able.
Newton’s recovery was not progressing as quickly as he and the team hoped, and on Nov. 1, the Panthers announced he would visit a foot specialist and weigh his options. At the time, surgery reportedly was not being considered.
On Nov. 5, the Panthers announced the decision they hoped they would not have to make. Newton was placed on injured reserve, a move that all but ended his 2019 season and allowed him to focus on his recovery without taking a spot on Carolina’s 53-man roster.
As of Nov. 10, Newton reportedly was considering surgery on his foot, even though the procedure had not been considered prior to his placement on IR.
Cam Newton injury updates
— Nov. 10: NFL Media reports Newton is considering surgery on his foot, a procedure that would come with “a recovery time of eight-to-10 weeks — three months at the most.”
— Nov. 5: The Panthers place Newton on injured reserve, effectively ending his 2019 season. “For the past seven weeks, Cam has diligently followed a program of rest and rehab and still is experiencing pain in his foot,” Hurney says in a release. “He saw two foot specialists last week who agreed that he should continue that path prescribed by the team’s medical staff, and that it likely will take significant time for the injury to fully heal. We have said all along that it is impossible to put a timetable on this injury. Nobody is more frustrated with that fact than Cam. He’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve been around during my 20-plus years in the league. At this time, we have decided that the best decision to reach the goal of bringing the foot back to 100 percent is to place Cam on injured reserve.”
— Nov. 3: NFL Media reports Newton is expected to be sidelined several more weeks and maybe more. The team will consider multiple recovery options, according to the report.
— Nov. 1: Days after Newton is ruled out for the Panthers’ Week 9 game against the Titans, the team announces Newton is scheduled to visit foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wisc. “I spent a long time speaking with Cam this week and he’s done everything he possibly can in his rehab process to get his foot to 100 percent,” Hurney says in a release. “Unfortunately, we haven’t reached that point. The next step is for him to go see Dr. Anderson and gather more information.”
— Sept. 27: Newton posts a video to his YouTube channel in which he expands on his injury and the psychology of his struggles with the Lisfranc injury. “I can honestly say if we had to do a quarterback sneak or I had to a quarterback run, I don’t know because I would have had to push off my foot,” Newton says. “And for so long I’ve prided myself to say I can get one yard. I’m going to jump over you. I’m going to run through you. I’m going to run around you. And I wasn’t able to do (those things). And I think that’s the thing that humbled me is like, ‘Cam ain’t the player that he used to be.'”
— Sept. 24: The Athletic reports Newton is dealing with a Lisfranc injury rather than a sprained foot. From the report: “Multiple sources confirmed Newton is dealing with a Lisfranc injury, in which the ligaments of the mid-foot rupture, causing instability with the joints. Some Lisfranc injuries involve trauma to the small bones in the foot, although the Panthers’ initial wording that Newton had sustained a mid-foot sprain would suggest his is ligament-related.”
— Sept. 23: Newton is ruled out for the Panthers’ Week 4 game against the Texans. “What Cam needs right now is time and rest for his foot,” Rivera says in a release. “We want him at 100 percent when he’s ready, so there’s no exact timetable for his return. At this point, we’re going to go forward with Kyle (Allen) as our starter.”
— Sept. 20: Newton is ruled out for the Panthers’ Week 3 game against the Cardinals as he recovers from his foot injury. “He felt pretty good at the end of the week,” Rivera tells reporters. “But we don’t want another setback. Want to make sure he’s ready to roll.”
— Sept. 17: Newton misses practice thanks to what the Panthers call a re-aggravation of the foot sprain he suffered in the preseason. The team says there is no timetable for Newton.
— Sept. 13: In a Week 2 loss to the Bucs, Newton looks terrible while going 25 of 51 passing for 333 yards and a 70.1 passer rating. Newton admits after the game he needs to do some “soul searching” but does not claim he is being impacted by his foot injury.
— Sept. 4: When asked about his foot injury days before the season opener, Newton tells reporters, “(I’m) focused on the Rams. I don’t want to dwell on something that’s irrelevant or doesn’t need to be talked about.”
— Aug. 27: Rivera tells reporters there is “no doubt” in his mind Newton will start the Panthers’ regular season opener against the Rams. The QB is seen at practice putting more pressure on his injured foot.
— Aug. 24: Newton sits out practice with what the team is calling a sprained foot. “The doctors feel the more we keep him off of it, the more we keep it elevated, we’re expecting it to take care of itself quickly,” Rivera tells reporters, adding that “there really isn’t any timetable” on the QB’s recovery.
— Aug. 23: Panthers GM Marty Hurney offers a glass-half-full assessment of what he described as a “mid-foot sprain” in Newton’s left foot (via The Athletic): “We are cautiously optimistic he will be ready for Week 1.”
— Aug. 22: Newton goes to the locker room after hurting his left foot in the first quarter of the Panthers’ Week 3 preseason game against the Patriots. He is ruled out for the rest of the game and is later seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot. “We’re hoping it’s not too bad,” Hurney says after the game. “We’ll find out more (Friday). But I hope it’s not too bad.”