Newton didn't exactly back his coach's play on Wednesday, acknowledging to reporters that he's playing through pain.
"Hurt is hurt. If you're asking me am I hurt right now? Yeah, I'm hurt," Newton said. "I haven't felt 100 percent in a long time. But is that ... my excuse why we're on a losing streak? No, absolutely not. You ask me a question: Is Cam Newton hurt? Yes, I'm hurt. And that's all honesty. But can I play, yes I can play and I will be playing."
Quite frankly, there's not a hint of controversy here.
For nearly a century, NFL players have pointed out the difference between being hurt and being injured. As Newton said Wednesday, it's a case of "mind over matter."
After taking hits for 10 weeks, most players around the league are suiting up at less than peak strength by mid-November.
Newton's case is unique, because he has absorbed twice as many hits as any quarterback over the past three years.
"He's a different kind of athlete," Rivera told ESPN's Ed Werder last month. "This guy is a warrior."
It's Rivera's duty to protect Newton. If the quarterback is merely hurt as opposed to injured, that means not disclosing a weakness for opposing players to target and opposing coaches to game-plan against.
This is the fine line that 32 coaches toe on a weekly basis.