Panthers owner unsure if Cam Newton needs surgery

For the first time since the Carolina Panthers' disappointing 2018 season came to a close, team owner David Tepper addressed local media on Tuesday.

Among the things on Tepper's mind, and there were many, as he enters his first full calendar year as Panthers owner was the health of his franchise quarterback, Cam Newton.

Newton saw his season cut short by a lingering shoulder injury with two weeks to go and Carolina all but out of the playoff hunt. The Panthers QB's accuracy and arm strength were notably hampered down the stretch, and after Newton was finally parked on the sideline in favor of Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, the conversation turned toward how the Panthers signal-caller would bounce back this offseason.

According to Tepper, whether Newton undergoes surgery on his shoulder or opts to rest it instead during the hiatus is undecided.

"Of course it's a concern," Tepper said of Newton's injury, per ESPN's David Newton. "People get injured in football and what we have to do is keep our options open just in case. Cam Newton is a guy we're going to be depending on. He's a talent. But it would be foolish to say you're not having an awareness of potential things that could happen during the year."

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported in late December that Newton was not expected to undergo shoulder surgery.

Tepper added, per Marcel Louis-Jacques of The Charlotte Observer, "We've got to make sure we have our options open in all ways possible, just in case. We're all hoping everything will be great -- and it could be great. Look at [Andrew] Luck this year. Who knows?

"If you told me that [Newton] took a year off and could be fully recovered and everything else and that's what it took, an extra year, why wouldn't you do that? Now, we would have to do other things and we'd have to go out and get another quarterback, which, if you could find me some more cap space, I'd appreciate that."

Luck memorably sat out the entire 2017 season to recover from shoulder surgery only to return fully healthy in 2018 to complete 67.3 percent of his passes, throw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdown passes and lead the Indianapolis Colts back to the postseason.

The owner's comments raise questions regarding Cam's long-term future with the franchise. Newton has two seasons left on a five-year extension he signed in 2015, his second contract with the organization.

If the team chooses to part ways with Newton before his contract expires, a currently unthinkable but realistic possibility if his shoulder remains an issue, Carolina could save as much as $33.7 million in cap space over the next two years. But then of course, they'd be without one of the league's most dynamic, if physically fickle quarterbacks.

The Panthers own the 16th selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Here are some other notable bites from Tepper's off-camera conversation with reporters:

»Tepper said he was involved in the decision to part ways with linebacker Thomas Davis, also signaling how immersed he will be in future personnel decisions, per ESPN: "When you have cherished -- I'm not going to use this word lightly -- cherished veterans, you should get involved at that point with ownership. If you have things that could potentially be disruptive or viewed as very controversial, Eric Reid, you get ownership involved in that decision making."

»The Panthers owner was critical of his offensive line, per the Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue, which was the front line of an offense that ranked sixth in least sacks allowed (32) and fourth in rushing yards (2,136) in 2018: "The offense, listen, the offensive line looked like a disaster. ... You have to give (offensive line coach John) Matsko a lot of credit. ... It was as good as it possibly could be. So it was a good coaching job. But if you look through the season, you look at the strengths and weaknesses."

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