December 19, 2014

Panthers head of PR Dayton takes new job, assistant Drummond promoted

Long-time Panthers communications director Charlie Dayton will take a new post starting Jan. 1 and assistant Steven Drummond will assume the director position for the team’s public relations.

Dayton, who’s been with the team for 20 years, will become the team’s director of historical and alumni affairs. Dayton will oversee any records and archives, as well as coordinate alumni relations and initiatives with former players.

“My deep appreciation goes to Mr. Richardson for allowing me to serve our great franchise through all of these years and this opportunity going forward,” Dayton wrote in an email to reporters who cover the team daily.

Drummond, who graduated from South Carolina in 2001, has been with the Panthers for more than nine years. He’s been the assistant director of communications since 2011. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 06:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Rivera 'very confident' Newton will start vs. Browns

The Carolina Panthers put Cam Newton through several physical tests during Friday's practice, and the Pro Bowl quarterback gave the team no reason to think he won't be ready for Sunday's game against Cleveland.

Newton is officially listed as probable, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he's "very confident" in Newton's ability to start a game with major playoff implications for the Panthers.

"He did a lot of turning and twisting today. We put a lot of pressure on it," Rivera said. "We had him do some things on purpose, and he seemed to be right on track. He's had no ill effects every morning."

Newton missed last week's win against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident Dec. 9 in uptown Charlotte. It was the second game he's missed this season after sitting out the season opener at Tampa with cracked ribs.

But Newton practiced all week, taking the snaps with the first-team offense Thursday and Friday.

"We're pointed in the right direction," Rivera said. "Good things have happened. He's done a lot of positive things."

Newton will continue to use the flak jacket he's worn since cracking his ribs during an August exhibition at New England. Rivera said the training staff believes the flak jacket will protect the lower-back injury Newton sustained in the car wreck.

In other injury news, running back DeAngelo Williams (broken bone in right hand) is listed as questionable, but likely will be used as an emergency back, Rivera said.

Williams has missed the past two games and is still experiencing discomfort in the hand.

"He's still uncomfortable," Rivera said. "We don't want to put him in a situation where he takes a shot and he's done."

Outside linebacker A.J. Klein also is questionable with an ankle injury.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Panthers can help NFC South avoid another dubious distinction

The Panthers need help from Atlanta or Tampa Bay if they are to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

But with a win Sunday against Cleveland, the Panthers can help their NFC South rivals avoid the distinction of finishing with the worst out-of-division record since the NFL realigned in 2002.

Through 15 weeks, NFC South teams have combined for a 9-28-1 record in non-division games. Since the league went to eight, four-team divisions 12 years ago, the 2008 NFC West has the worst out-of-division mark at 10-30.

The Arizona Cardinals won the West with a 9-7 record that season, and advanced to the Super Bowl with a three-game playoff run that included a thrashing of the Panthers in the Jake Delhomme Interception Fest.

The NFC South has two chances Sunday to avoid earning the "worst ever" crown, although the Panthers would seem to have the best shot against the Browns.

Tampa Bay (2-12) is a 10-point home underdog against Green Bay.        

The NFC South already has set a couple of dubious distinctions this season.

Atlanta and New Orleans, at 4-7, became the first teams in NFL history to lead a division at three games under.500.

That same week, the South became the first division to have each of its teams at least three games under .500, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The South is assured of crowning a division champ without a winning record. That's only happened three times previously -- Denver (8-8) in 2011, Seattle (7-9) in 2010 and San Diego (8-8) in 2008.

All three of those teams hosted -- and won -- first-round playoff games.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was the defensive coordinator of that Chargers' team, which won its final four games to win the AFC West, then knocked off Indianapolis in the playoffs.

Rivera started telling his team and the media about the 2008 Chargers several weeks ago when the NFC South was well on its way to challenging records for futility.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 18, 2014

Rivera expects Newton to start vs. Cleveland

Barring any setbacks before Sunday, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said quarterback Cam Newton is on target to start against the Cleveland Browns.

Rivera refused to speak in definitive terms, but conceded Newton would "probably" be the starter if he continues to progress.

Newton took the majority of the first-team reps Thursday and was listed as full participation on the official injury report. Newton sat out last week's win against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident Dec. 9 in uptown Charlotte, a block from Bank of America Stadium.

Newton said he didn't want his status to be a distraction before Sunday's game, which has big playoff implications for the Panthers.

"If I can play, we all know that I want to play," Newton said Thursday. "But at the end of the day, I won't jeopardize what we have an opportunity to do just because my selfishness to say, 'Oooh, I'm a tough man.'"

After missing only a handful of snaps due to injury during his first three seasons, Newton has dealt with several injuries this year. He had offseason surgery to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle, then cracked his ribs during an August exhibition at New England.

The rib injury sidelined him for a season-opening win at Tampa Bay. Backup Derek Anderson was 2-0 filling in for Newton against the Buccaneers.

"This has been a year in my whole career of playing -- I'm talking from Pee Wee, 7 years old all the way up until this day -- I've never went through this many injuries," Newton said.

"I kind of prided myself on being a tough guy. I kind of prided myself on being the guy who doesn't get hurt. And yet every week it's kind of been something different."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 18, 2014 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

December 17, 2014

Cam Newton returns to Panthers' practice

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident last week in Charlotte.

Backup quarterback Derek Anderson received more reps than Newton during the 30-minute portion of the practice that was open to the media. But Newton looked limber and threw with a fluid passing motion while participating in all of the drills.

After the Panthers broke following their team stretch, Newton sprinted to the other practice field, beating all of his offensive teammates.

Newton handed the ball off, kept the ball on two zone-read plays and threw a 60-yard pass that practice-squad receiver Stephen Hill could not run down. Newton also playfully caught a one-handed pass.


Newton sat out last week's 19-17 win against Tampa Bay, the second game he's missed in his four-year career. He was sidelined for a Week 1 win against the Bucs with cracked ribs.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said earlier this week he would only play Newton in Sunday's game against Cleveland if he's confident Newton can protect himself.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

December 15, 2014

Rivera: Newton will play if he can protect himself

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he will only play Cam Newton this week if he's confident his injured quarterback can protect himself against the Cleveland Browns.

Newton sat out Sunday's win against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident last week in Charlotte. Newton stood on the sideline during the game, cheering on No. 2 quarterback Derek Anderson.

Rivera said there's a rehab progression that doctors and trainers have laid out for Newton, and his status will be determined based on whether he meets those goals.

But Rivera said ultimately it will come down the coach's confidence that he won't be exposing Newton to further injury by playing him against the Browns.

"I don’t want to put a guy out there that can’t protect himself," Rivera said Monday. "By that it’s being able to run out of the way, scramble out of the way, stay alive, keep the play alive by being able to get away. That’s all part of it. That’s all part of the decision that went into the first Tampa Bay game."

Newton was sidelined for the Week 1 win at Tampa Bay with cracked ribs, despite lobbying Rivera to let him play.

Anderson is 2-0 this season while filling in for Newton in the only two games Newton has missed in his four-year career.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 15, 2014 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

December 14, 2014

DeAngelo Williams inactive vs. Bucs

Running back DeAngelo Williams will miss his second consecutive game with a broken bone in his right hand.

The Panthers listed Williams as inactive versus the Buccaneers, which the Panthers expected to do all week.

Quarterback Cam Newton, who had been listed as out, is also inactive. The hope is he will be healthy enough to play next week against the Browns.

Cornerback James Dockery, safety Robert Lester, tackle David Foucault, guard Amini Silatolu (knee) and defensive tackle Micanor Regis are also inactive.

Linebacker Kevin Reddick, who was brought up from the practice squad Saturday, will play in his first game with the Panthers.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 14, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

December 11, 2014

Cam Newton thankful to be alive

A thankful Cam Newton addressed the media Thursday for the first time since his two-car accident, saying he's thankful to be alive.

The Carolina Panthers franchise quarterback sustained two fractures in his lower back, but is otherwise OK following the Tuesday afternoon wreck in uptown Charlotte that left Newton's pickup truck totaled.

"I'm on somebody's fantasy league, and I think it's the man upstairs," said Newton, who wore a blue hoodie and leaned on the podium during his seven-minute press conference.

"As far as when I'm coming back, who cares?" Newton said. "I'm just thankful that I have breath in my lungs."

Newton will miss Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, and said he didn't want his situation to become a distraction for the Panthers.

Newton was at Bank of America Stadium early Thursday to begin treatment and attend positional meetings.

Newton said seeing pictures of his 1998 Dodge Ram, with its smashed cab on the passenger's side, make him realize how fortunate he was.

"Every time I see that flashback of looking at that truck, I'm surprised that nothing serious was done to me," he said. "I'm just lucky to come out of there unscathed."

Newton said he never lost consciousness during the wreck, which occurred at the intersection of Church and Hill streets a block from the Panthers' stadium.

Newton was traveling south on Church when he saw the other driver, Nestor Pellot Jr., pull out and attempt to cross Chuch in a Buick sedan. Newton said he attempted to avoid Pellot's car, but the Buick "clipped the back of my truck."

Newton said the airbags deployed in his truck, and he sustained no external cuts or injuries.

"I really couldn't talk afterwards because I was in such shock," Newton said. "I got myself out the truck, and I couldn't stop smiling. ...

"I'm looking at this truck and I'm like, 'Somebody's supposed to be dead.' And I just can't stop smiling because it's like, God has his hands on me."

--Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2014 at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Playoffs? Panthers mail out postseason ticket info

Fresh off their first victory in more than two months, the Carolina Panthers are mailing playoff ticket information this week, as mandated by the NFL.

In an email sent Thursday, the Panthers notified their season ticket-holders they can reserve tickets through a "Pay as we Play" option, which doesn't require any up-front payments.

Fans are required to fill out their playoff ticket requests before Dec. 26, but would not be charged unless and until the Panthers win the NFC South, a division that will not have anyone with a winning record.

The Panthers (4-8-1) trail Atlanta (5-8) and New Orleans (5-8) by a half-game in the division, with three games remaining.

The Panthers are trying to make it to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in their 20-year history.

"Hopefully, it's a wonderful option for people. We're not asking them to do anything. It's a very effective way we feel that rewards our fans," Panthers chief revenue officer Phil Youtsey said Thursday. "If we have a playoff game, they'll get charged. If we don't, they don't."

The Panthers hammered the Saints 41-10 last weekend to snap a seven-game winless streak that dated to Oct. 5. They face Tampa Bay (2-11) on Sunday at home.

"We're a half-game out of first place. We have to go," Youtsey added. "If things fall right, you never know."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Newton back at the Panthers' facilities Thursday morning

Less than a day after being discharged from the hospital, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was at the team facilities in meetings and getting treatment.

A team source within the Panthers’ facilities told the Observer Newton was in Bank of America Stadium Thursday morning, one day after he stayed at home with his family to rest and recuperate after being discharged.

Newton was involved in a two-car collision late Tuesday that sent him to Carolinas Medical Center with fractures in his lower back. He was also stiff and sore upon leaving the hospital Wednesday, and that was expected to be the case for at least a week.

On Wednesday night, Newton posted a picture to Instagram showing his totaled 1998 Dodge Ram truck. Below the picture he posted a message to his fans telling them to appreciate every day and thanking them for their prayers and well wishes.



I do not know where to begin because by the look of that picture soMEone is supposed to be dead or severely injured worse than what I am right now! While I am resting up the thought that keeps flashing in my mind is that GOD IS GOOD and someone has there protective hands on my life shielding me from any danger that may come my way! I know one thing, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF "IF" you are holding a grudge against someone, "IF" you don't tell the people that's close and dear to you that "YOU LOVE THEM" every chance you get, "IF" your mad because something didn't go your way today! L1FE IS TO SHORT FOR YOU NOT TO APPRECIATE IT TO THE FULLNESS; THROUGH THE GOOD AND THE BAD! I thank you to the people who have been keeping me in there prayers and well wishes for a speedy recovery! I am appreciative for the many great things GOD has given me to be thankful for. It's a old cliché statement but it says "GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS!" And as that crash constantly plays back in my mind every time I close my eyes, I can't go another day without me THANKING GOD for the opportunities he has given me in my life and this accident puts ALOT of things in perspective of what's important and what's not! SHAMEonYOU if YOU go another second in life with holding a grudge or HATING on someone, taking life for granted, or just not appreciating the breath you just breathed; trust and believe there are plenty people with illnesses, people in the hospital, or even people that are 6ft under the earth that W1SH they had "another"opportunity to do so! So if you read this I challenge you to L1VE life to the fullness everyday! 1OVE the people who are close to you (and don't be afraid to tell them as well)! FORG1VE "whoever" for "whatever" they did! Trust when I tell you that L1FE is to short for you NOT to do those things! #THANKyouJESUSforALLOWINGmeTOseeANOTHERday L1VE-1OVE-FORG1VE=HAPP1NESS

A photo posted by Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:46pm PST

The Panthers will start Derek Anderson at quarterback Sunday against Tampa Bay. Newton will be inactive for the game, but the hope is he’ll be able to manage the pain in his lower back enough to start and play effectively next week against the Browns.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 11, 2014 at 08:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)