Ron Rivera not ready to shut down Cam Newton

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Cam Newton doesn't look physically right dealing with a shoulder issue, but the Carolina Panthers appear ready to continue playing their franchise quarterback until the postseason dream is officially squashed.

Speaking Tuesday after losing to the New Orleans Saints 12-9 to fall to 6-8, coach Ron Rivera said he wouldn't make a determination on Newton's status for the final two weeks of the season until after speaking with the medical staff and the quarterback later in the day.

Rivera noted the Panthers' tiny window of opportunity to still make the postseason as a reason Newton might continue to play.

"Believe it or not there's still a slim gimmer so we'll see," the coach said. "Again, we'll continue to focus in on playing football and we got Atlanta coming to town and all intents and purposes, we play to win."

Losing six straight games, the Panthers need to beat the Falcons and Saints and have the Vikings, Eagles and Redskins to collapse down the stretch to sneak their way into the playoffs.

That slim glimmer relies on Newton playing well, which he hasn't the past several weeks.

Dealing with a sore shoulder, the quarterback is unable to drive the ball down the field, which has hindered the entire Panthers operation. Newton is skipping passes, tossing short ducks, and not stretching the defense either vertical or horizontal. In Monday night's loss, Newton didn't attempt a single pass of more 20-plus air-yards downfield, and just four attempts of 29 traveled 10-plus air-yards, one of which was completed to his target.

In his postgame news conference, a frustrated Newton grappled with his declining play due to the shoulder issue.

All the evidence suggests the Panthers should shut down their franchise signal-caller and allow him to rest.

As of Tuesday morning, Rivera wasn't ready to go that route.

"Like I said, I haven't talked to the doctors, or trainers, or Cam himself today so we'll wait until we have conversations and see where we are," the coach said.

Asked if a clearly hobbled Newton gives the Panthers the best chance to keep that slim window open, Rivera retorted: "I believe in Cam so we'll leave it at that."

We'll see if conversations later in the day change the team's mind.

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