The Carolina Panthers have yet to make an official decision on Cam Newton’s status for this weekend, and coach Ron Rivera indicated by word and deed Friday that he’s tired of talking about it.
Newton missed his third consecutive day of practice on Thursday, exactly a week after he re-injured his left foot in the team’s loss to Tampa Bay. Newton first sustained that left foot sprain in Week 3 of the preseason, and he missed about a week’s worth of practices as a result.
If Newton is unavailable for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, then second-year passer Kyle Allen would start in his place. But Coach Ron Rivera said Thursday he wasn’t ready to name a starter.
“Nope. Cam was in meetings today. He was inside for treatment,” Rivera said. “Kyle’s preparing as if he’s going to start, and we’ll have more clarity tomorrow.
“Tomorrow we should have a good feel for where he is, and we’ll go forward from there.”
While Newton was not at practice Thursday, he was briefly spotted in the team’s locker room with a boot on his left foot. Newton has been in that boot since Tuesday.
When questions about Newton persisted in Rivera’s daily press conference, the coach asked politely for any additional questions about anything besides Newton.
“I’m not going to talk about it anymore, guys,” Rivera said. “I mean, let’s talk about Arizona. I mean, haven’t really talked about Arizona, so it would be good to answer those kind of questions.”
Questions about Newton persisted, leading to Rivera calmly walking out of his press conference. The entire session lasted just two minutes and 15 seconds.
“I just asked you to ask me questions about somebody else,” he said on his way out. “I’m not gonna do this anymore, OK? I told you, I won’t know anything until tomorrow. OK? Thank you.”
Norv Turner explains final play call against Tampa
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since the loss to Tampa, and he finally explained his thinking behind the team’s final play call.
After driving the length of the field in the last two minutes, the Panthers faced a 4th-and-1 at Tampa’s 2-yard line. Turner called for a direct snap to running back Christian McCaffrey, the second straight week he called such a play. McCaffrey took the ball left and faked a reverse to receiver Curtis Samuel before diving for the pylon on the sideline.
He ultimately was ruled short of the distance to gain, resulting in a game-ending turnover on downs.
“It’s a play we had in our playbook, and I don’t know that we executed it as well as we could, and I thought they defended it well,” Turner said. “Obviously we don’t get into those details. It was a number of things.”
Turner also got into the reasoning behind Newton only having five rushing attempts this season for -2 yards.
“Obviously the foot’s not 100 percent, but it’s not an injury (thing). A lot of guys will go out and play with a sore shoulder, sore knee, sore foot, whatever it might be. I would attribute it more to the way the Rams defended us and the way Tampa defended us,” Turner said. “They took the zone read stuff, they were going to make him give it to the (running) back. The times he tried to keep it, it wasn’t very good.
“When we looked at the Rams in the offseason, we took out 76 of those type plays and they forced the quarterback to give 74, so that’s the way they’re going to play that. They’re going to make you give the ball to the back and keep the quarterback off the edge. So those things usually work out during an entire season.”
Other than Newton, there were a number of noticeable absences and DNP’s during Thursday’s practice.
Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (hamstring) and defensive tackle Kawann Short (shoulder) both worked on the side with trainers and were listed as not participating. Safety Rashaan Gaulden (groin) and tackle Brandon Greene (neck) were absent.
Tight end Greg Olsen (back) went from limited on Wednesday to a full participant on Thursday.