Tuesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers placed quarterback Cam Newton on the injured reserve list due to a foot injury that he aggravated in week 2. He has been working on rehab for weeks on end, but a recent trip to Green Bay to meet with a foot specialist placed his future in doubt. With no clear return in sight, the team put him on the shelf for the time being, but that doesn't mean that he can't make a return this year.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Panthers could actually bring Newton back to the active roster, provided they earn a spot in the playoffs. This would give him the opportunity to come back into the starting lineup and potentially help his team make a run.
"My understanding is the door is open for Cam to return if they were to make it into the playoffs," Pelissero said on Tuesday. "To be in Wild Card week, that's when eight weeks would fall. They could activate him at this time."
The door is open on Cam Newton being activated when he's eligible, which would require the #Panthers to make the playoffs with Kyle Allen at QB. But the IR move takes pressure off Cam. They've said all along they want him to fully heal and now he can. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/T8LYZAvezV— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 5, 2019
Technically, being placed on IR means that a player is done for the year, but there is a scenario in which they can return in eight weeks, provided they have been designated as possible to return. Carolina only has eight games remaining in the season, which would require the Panthers securing a spot in the playoffs in order for Newton to return.
Currently, the New Orleans Saints are leading the division with a 7-1 record and show no signs of slowing down. This would make it difficult for the 5-3 Panthers to keep up and win the division, but there is a very real scenario that Allen could lead this team to enough wins to secure a Wild Card spot.
To achieve this goal, Allen and the Panthers will have to survive a slate of games that includes battles with the Packers (7-2), Falcons (1-7), Saints (7-1), Redskins (1-8), Falcons (1-7), Seahawks (7-2), Colts (5-3), and Saints (7-1). Going 4-4 through this stretch is likely given the matchups against struggling franchises in the Falcons and Redskins, as well as a winnable game against the Colts. Although 6-2 is also possible if the offense remains mistake-free.
If Allen can indeed lead this team to enough victories to lock up a playoff spot, the Panthers can begin to think about bringing Newton back from injured reserve. Of course, that would create a different discussion about benching the QB that was responsible for the winning streak, as well as any proverbial rust that Newton would have to shake off before taking the field.
(Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty)