Charlotte, N.C. — Cam Newton is headed to the bench because of a sore shoulder.
The Panthers made the decision to shut down Newton, the 2015 league MVP, for at least one game and possibly the remainder of the season due to a lingering right shoulder problem.
Coach Ron Rivera said Taylor Heinicke will make his first career start when Carolina hosts the Falcons on Sunday. Kyle Allen will be Carolina’s backup and Newton will be inactive.
Rivera said he decided to sit Newton after meeting with owner David Tepper, general manager Marty Hurney, team doctors and Newton on Wednesday morning before practice.
“It was a good conversation with Cam and he understood our thinking behind this,” Rivera said. “He’s disappointed and he’s frustrated. You know him, he wants to play.”
But Rivera said a “healthy Taylor Heinicke” gives the Panthers the best chance to win this week.
He hasn’t made a decision about Newton’s status for Week 17 at New Orleans, saying the focus is on the Falcons.
The Panthers (6-8) have lost six straight games and are all but out of playoff contention as Newton has struggled with an unknown shoulder issue. He had surgery in March 2017 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and has had problems ever since.
The Panthers have limited his reps in practice for most of the season and it’s rare when he throws a ball more than 20 yards down the field in a game.
Newton has just nine TD passes and nine interceptions during Carolina’s six-game skid and has looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
Nicholson to sit
Washington safety Montae Nicholson has been ruled out for Saturday’s game at Tennessee following his arrest this week.
Nicholson was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with assault and battery and being drunk in public stemming from a fight at a restaurant and retail complex near the team’s practice facility in Ashburn, Va.
The team has yet to officially suspend Nicholson, a second-year player from Michigan State.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey plans to play in the Pro Bowl despite a lingering knee issue. Ramsey said he has a bone bruise in his right knee.
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... Running back Frank Gore has been placed on injured reserve by the Dolphins because of a sprained foot.