What was announced this week is now canon as the Panthers have officially ruled out franchise quarterback Cam Newton for their Week 16 home finale against the Atlanta Falcons – fourth-year quarterback Taylor Heinicke will get the start and not only are his teammates excited to see him play, the coaches are eager to see how his practice reps – of which he’s taken many – translate to the field on Sundays.
“[His teammates] see him make throws and they know his presence in the huddle, so he’s prepared himself to play,” said offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who said that the game plan hasn’t changed much with Heinicke in the game and he feels comfortable. “This is his first start of his career – he’s thrown four or five balls in a real football game, so I think we’re all excited to see him play and see how he handles it.”
“I think he has very good accuracy, he’s got a quick release, he’s got a stronger arm than people realize and he’s thrown a lot of balls in his life. He’s an experienced passer, he’s athletic; you saw in preseason, he can run – he just needs to play. Like any young guy; if you haven’t played, it’s a whole different deal.”
“These games are a lot different than practice or the preseason.”
Heinicke won’t be the only young player getting more reps as Ron Rivera said this week that they would look to give some of their younger players more reps – that likely includes Jermaine Carter, Jr. with Shaq Thompson on injured reserve; don’t be surprised to see Corn Elder or Rashaan Gaulden get some snaps in the defensive secondary as well as the continued rotation along the defensive line.
That rotation will continue to be important with Kawann Short questionable with a calf injury, although Ron Rivera said Friday that he “would be surprised if he doesn’t play.” Short went from doubtful to questionable to playing his full complement of snaps over the course of last weekend and into Monday night.
Christian McCaffrey returned to practice after a rest day on Thursday, but Short, along with other players, did not practice Friday as the Panthers moved to the Convention Center to practice for the first time this season – the inclement weather that they’ve had in 2018 has altered their practice schedule multiple times this season and moving inside was just another example.
“We’ve had two hurricanes come through. We’ve had snow for a week. Steady rain for a couple of weeks. We’ve had a lot,” Rivera said. “It’s been trying, but one of the things I’ve tried to get guys to understand is how important it is to focus through those things.”
What better place to practice for the first start of your NFL career? pic.twitter.com/pjZ9GgG38R
— The Riot Report (@RRiotReport) December 21, 2018
Owner David Tepper said earlier this season that he “would be very surprised” if the Panthers weren’t practicing indoors next season, leading most to believe that a bubble will be placed over at least one of the current practice fields as the team builds a more permanent team facility.
On the other side of the field, wide receiver Julio Jones is questionable after returning to limited practice on Friday – the star wideout did not practice earlier in the week and is considered a game-time decision
Check out the full Panthers injury report:
|Cam Newton||Right Shoulder||Out|