Cam Newton returned to practice on Thursday, signalling a likely return for Sunday’s matchup against the Saints. The Panthers, who are currently sitting at 1-4, are desperately in need of the return of their star quarterback, who only a year ago won MVP and lead the team to a 15-1 season.
Newton has taken a large number of hits this season, including the one to the head that led to his concussion. Many Panthers fans are wondering if the game plan will be adapted to help protect their star player. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula cleared that question up when he committed to running the same schemes they’ve been running. Via Black and Blue Review:
If he’s cleared by an independent neurologist by Sunday, expect Newton to play like he always has — running and all.
“That’s his game,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “We’ll look at it and we’ll talk about it, but part of his game and what makes him so good is that.”
The hit that ultimately gave Newton the concussion two weeks ago was a hit that could have been avoided by using a running back or a different blocking scheme to give Newton more protection. But Newton has always taken a lot of hits: in his time in the league, he’s taken 831 hits. That’s 300 more than Russell Wilson, who offers a similar balance of passing ability with explosive running, has taken in the same time frame. Still, head coach Ron Rivera remains just as committed to the game plan as Shula is:
Depends on the situations, circumstances, calls, plays, reads. The quarterback’s going to play the game the way he plays the game. That’s one thing about Cam Newton. We can call a play and he can drop back and take off running on his own.
“So we’re going to play our offense accordingly.”