The Carolina Panthers' season momentarily appeared on the brink before it began, when QB Cam Newton suffered a left foot injury during Thursday night's preseason "dress rehearsal," which ended with the former league MVP in a walking boot.
But after initial X-rays came back negative, GM Marty Hurney chose a tone of careful optimism that his team's leader will start when the defending conference champion Los Angeles Rams visit Charlotte in Week 1.
"It's really hard to put a timeframe because it depends how he responds each day," Hurney told the team website. But as I said, we feel this has got a chance to come around quick enough where he'll be ready to play Week 1. We'll see how it goes."
Newton, 30, spent much of the offseason recovering from surgery on his right shoulder after his 2018 campaign was cut short following Carolina's postseason elimination. He appeared to suffer Thursday's injury when Patriots 345-pound DT Danny Shelton tackled him by the ankle. After receiving attention from trainers on the sideline and walking to the locker room under his own power, coach Ron Rivera confirmed Newton left the stadium and boarded the flight home in a walking boot.
The former No. 1 overall pick and NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2015, Newton posted a 94.2 passer rating — his highest since the MVP season — and career-high 67.9 completion percentage in 14 starts last season despite clearly being at less than 100 percent. But the Panthers finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs for the second time in the three seasons since their NFC title campaign.
Newton's preseason debut Thursday night was supposed to be a symbol of optimism. Instead, it could become the latest sign that playing key guys in the preseason — something a growing faction of coaches is punting on — simply isn't worth the risk.
Packers top pick exits on cart in Winnipeg, where game being played on shortened field
Rashan Gary, the ex-Michigan Wolverine selected No. 12 overall by Green Bay to headline its massive offseason defensive overhaul, exited in the second half Thursday night in Winnipeg on a cart with an apparent head/neck injury. It was Gary's second time during the game requiring medical attention. Fortunately, a Tweet from Gary's agency — RG Sports — indicates he's OK.
The Packers also saw WR Equanimeous St. Brown leave on a cart but avoid serious injury after the team confirmed he suffered a sprained ankle.
Indeed, the unfit playing conditions at IG field, which was shortened to avoid a hole in the south end zone where the original CFL goal post is located, was hardly the only unfortunate news coming from the NFL's latest botched international foray.
"Tonight’s game is being played on a reconfigured field," the NFL's statement reads. "The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday. Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers' goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line."
Any of this sound familiar?
Remember, the league was forced to relocate its international series finale last season, with the Chiefs and Rams moving from Mexico City's Estadio Azteca to Los Angeles as the result of poor field conditions.
The NFL also canceled its 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game because of an unsafe paint job.
Seriously. The world's most powerful sports league — whose biggest charge right now is supposedly player safety — has now been forced to abruptly relocate or change the rules to safely accommodate players on three different playing surfaces over the past three years. You can't make this stuff up.
Washington rules out TE Jordan Reed with (another) concussion
We wish we were making this one up. Jordan Reed, the former Pro Bowl tight end who's missed 31 of a possible 96 regular-season games with injuries in six seasons, is back in concussion protocol after absorbing a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from Atlanta Falcons S Keanu Neal. It's at least the sixth documented concussion during Reed's football career.