How Cam Newton’s ankle surgery changes the Panthers’ offseason plans


I remember when it was a fun argument, when formerly optimistic Carolina Panther fans debated the offseason’s top priority. Carolina was coming off its best season in half a decade. Most thought the best offensive linemen in franchise history would return. Most thought the best wide receiver in franchise history would return. Most thought the franchise quarterback was the epitome of durability. It was a simpler time.

To me, wide receiver was a greater need. Given Cam’s ability to evade pressure and improvise, he could make better use of a weapon than more protection. Jordan Gross’ retirement – and to a lesser extent Geoff Hangartner’s retirement – began to swing the greatest need pendulum over to offensive line help. Cam’s ankle makes it almost impossible to argue for prioritizing a weapon now.

While I expect Newton to make a full recovery from what’s being described as stretched ligaments, it’s an inconvenient reminder that he’s not indestructible. With his size, success in short yardage and the fact that he’s never missed a start, it was easy to take his durability for granted. Now we’re reminded that it’s possible to damage Superman, a real exclamation point on what’s been a dreadful last week for the fan base.

If there’s one consolation, it’s that Robert Anderson, the doctor performing Cam’s surgery, is the best. Derek Jeter flies into Charlotte to see Anderson, to give an example. But even if Anderson performs a flawless procedure, we’re still forced to examine the plan for protecting Cam. Right now it’s awful. An improved receiver corps would be nice, certainly. Having Cam healthy for 2015 when the team won’t be in “cap hell,” well, that’s more important.

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