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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told ESPN on Sept. 18 the ongoing controversy involving teammate and defensive end Greg Hardy — who is involved in a domestic violence case — won’t serve as a distraction for the upcoming Sept. 21 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Newton told ESPN’s David Newton on Sept. 18 he and his teammates need to focus on the task at hand: winning football games. Hardy is currently embroiled in a domestic violence case:
“Quarterback Cam Newton says the legal situation surrounding sack leader Greg Hardy won’t be a distraction for the Carolina Panthers in Sunday night’s prime-time game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Hardy on Wednesday was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list until his domestic violence case is resolved. The earliest possible date for the 2013 Pro Bowl selection to return would be Nov. 17, when this appeal is scheduled to be heard by a jury.
“‘Distraction? I wouldn’t say it’s much of a distraction,’ Newton said Thursday. ‘You kind of, you (hurt) for a person (like) Greg who was done, in my opinion, every single thing that was asked of him to do.
“‘There’s a lot of guys that feel for Greg, including myself. But we still have a job to do, and that’s to put the best performance that we have had this season for Sunday night.’
“Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he plans to talk to Hardy next week about returning to the facility and working out.
“Under the terms of being placed on the exempt list, Hardy is allowed to be at the stadium and use the facilities but cannot practice or play in games. Rivera, as he said Wednesday, remains optimistic that Hardy will be back this season. If the trial is heard in mid-November — Hardy’s attorney has said it likely will be pushed into 2015 — Hardy will miss at least the next nine games.
“The only way to shorten that time span would be for Hardy to reach a plea bargain for the current charge of assault and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder — or possibly a lesser charge — and take a six-game suspension from the NFL without pay and return.
“Hardy and his attorney have given no indication that is an option.
“‘I know nothing of the timetable,’ Rivera said. ‘That’s just who I am (being optimistic). I believe the process will take care of itself. And again, hopefully it works out in the right favor, it’s correct. If so, I believe he’ll be back.’
“Rivera still hasn’t filled Hardy’s roster spot. Injuries to starting running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) and wide receiver Jason Avant (thigh) could help make the decision if neither can play. If that is the case, Rivera would consider bringing running back Darrin Reaves or one of two wide receivers — Stephen Hill or Marcus Lucas — from the practice squad.”
The Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Jones touched on Newton’s assortment of recent and nagging injuries — a surgically-repaired ankle and cracked ribs — on Sept. 18:
“There have been very few days since late March when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has not had to receive treatment for one of his ailments.
“For four months, it was for his surgically-repaired ankle. For the past month, it’s been the ankle and cracked ribs. There’s no end in sight.
“‘Well it’s been the story of my life all year, it feels like,’ Newton said. ‘There’s nothing more to expect than treatment. I’m not complaining because I know it’s going to pay off sooner or later. It’s frustrating to have this nicked up, have that nicked up, being able to try to do things that you’re not able to do. But knowing that the only way it’s going to get better is being steadfast with treatment.’
“Of course, both injuries could get better if Newton took time off, but that’s not an option. In his first regular-season game this year, Newton threw for 281 yards, rushed for 19 yards and was sacked five times.
“Newton’s routine after a game will become metronomic. He hurts Sunday night, gets treatment Monday, gets treatment on the team’s off day on Tuesday and hopes the soreness has dissipated enough by practice on Wednesday.
“Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t see the pattern breaking any time this season.
“‘Probably sometime in February, in all honesty,’ said Rivera when asked when Newton will stop getting treatment. ‘Because it’s going to go with the position and the way he plays. He plays hard and he plays where he cuts it loose. It’s going to be like that. He’ll have the nagging soreness constantly.'”
The 25-year-old Newton has thrown for 11,580 yards, 65 touchdowns and 42 interceptions for an 86.7 passer rating in 49 career regular-season games, per ESPN stats.