Multiple reasons for concern exist at Carolina Panthers training camp right now, starting with the swirling changes in the front office after the stunning firing of Dave Gettleman and the slightly less stunning return of Marty Hurney. Also on the radar is the health of Cam Newton, Carolina's franchise quarterback that left people questioning the timing of his medical procedure.
The world hasbut not much else. That puts everyone in the same position as Ron Rivera, who is excited to see Newton but has only glimpsed the social media video as well.
"I feel good about where he is. The only thing I saw is the video you guys saw where he threw inside the locker room," Rivera said on the first day of Panthers training camp. "I'm excited to see him in person tomorrow."
Like everyone else, Rivera has also gotten a glimpse of a more svelte version of Newton, a quarterback who appears to have spent the offseason ratcheting up the workout regimen and dropping some pounds.
Rivera said that Newton clocked in around 246 pounds, which is the lowest he's been since his rookie year.
"Yeah I think he came in around somewhere around 246 or something like that," Rivera said. "He's been like this all offseason, considering the fact that he couldn't throw."
Newton is listed at 245 on the Panthers roster, but the reality is he has been substantially higher than that over the past few years (although not in a bad way). Bill Voth of Panthers.com notes that Newton was "noticeably thinner" and believes if Rivera's "number is accurate, it could be the closest Newton has dipped to his listed weight of 245 since coming to Carolina."
In case you needed confirmation, Cam posted an Instagram photo ahead of training camp where he looked ripped and, frankly, kind of skinny.
What makes Newton losing weight fascinating is how it will affect him as a runner and how that will affect the Panthers game plan. Or, to put it more simply, Cam could have lost this weight as part of the Panthers' decision to make him less of a runner.
Carolina drafted Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel this season with first- and second-round picks, respectively, with the design of creating a more horizontal passing game, diversifying the way that the offense attacks the field and limiting the shots Newton takes by sitting in the pocket and holding the ball forever.
Newton losing weight and becoming a little more mobile and nimble, and a little less physical, would play right into that. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com initially posited in December that what the Steelers did with Ben Roethlisberger could work as an evolutionary model for Carolina and Newton. Rivera has since cited that example -- and noted that it's been written about -- when comparing how the Panthers want to take care of Newton.
Which makes the fact that Roethlisberger, prior to training camp in 2012, lost a "quite a few pounds" very interesting. As is the fact that he was battling injuries, including a shoulder issue, at the time.
"Good, I feel really well. I have lost quite a few pounds, just to help that ankle healed up quick," Roethlisberger said in May 2012. "Shoulder feels good and we'll get out there and see -- hopefully I'm not getting hit anytime soon, so we'll be alright."
Also of note there: Like Cam, Roethlisberger was coming off a season in which he suffered a shoulder injury on his throwing arm. The shoulder injury is actually odd, because there wasn't a lot made about it. Roethlisberger confirmed he dealt with it in 2011 during an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the season, but he never said what he was battling.
"I'm just waiting on my shoulder, it's the only thing left to get healed up," Roethlisbeger said in February 2012. "That's the last thing."
The similarities now are striking. (Panthers fans should not Google "Ben Roethlisberger shoulder injury 2012," though. Just trust me).
The comparisons to Cam and Ben were already there from the early stages of their career. Totem poles on (metaphorical) steroids, defenders were often seen hanging onto the two quarterbacks as they extended plays and took deep shots down the field.
But the physical toll on both bodies was -- or is with Newton -- obvious. Through six seasons Roethlisberger was sacked on a terrifying 9.1 percent of his drop backs. Cam has been sacked on 7 percent of his drop backs in his career. Since Todd Haley took over the Steelers offense, Roethlisberger has seen that percentage dip to 5.1 percent of his drop backs, an impressive number over a five-year span that has extended Roethlisberger's career and turned him into one of the most dangerous (and underrated) quarterbacks in the game.
The goal was to get Roethlisberger to use his brain more than his body, to make him, according to NFL.com's Mike Silver, "more of a cerebral player and not just a physical wonder." The Panthers want the exact same thing with Newton and it appears they are trying to follow the blueprint to a tee.