Panthers’ star quarterback Cam Newton was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his ribs, which would put him in doubt for the season opener against the Buccaneers, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter).
Newton has already been ruled out of Thursday’s preseason game against the Steelers, but the team hopes to have him back in time for the first game of the regular season.
Although starters do not necessarily play in the preseason finale, Newton was expected to see some action according to head coach Ron Rivera, writes John Breech of CBSSports.com.
Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer is more optimistic, writing that Newton could rejoin the team as early as next week.
Person did take to Twitter to give an overview of the team’s current quarterback depth chart going into the final preseason game. With Newton out with cracked ribs, and fourth stringer Matt Blanchard concussed, that leaves only Derek Anderson and Joe Webb healthy for the game.
To add to the confusion, Anderson’s wife is pregnant and due any day now, so there is potential that he might also be forced to miss the game for the birth of his child. That would leave former wide receiver Webb as the only option under center.
While this is not an ideal situation, making sure Newton is healthy and able to play during the regular season is the priority. After a tumultuous offseason, any time missed by their starting quarterback could be disastrous to a team that will struggle on offense even with him, given the lack of talent on the offensive line and with the reeceivers.