ORLANDO, Fla. -- Many of you have asked why the Carolina Panthers delayed ankle surgery on quarterback Cam Newton until last week. My standard answer has been the team wanted to try rest and rehabilitation before putting the first pick of the 2011 draft under the knife.
What we didn't know for sure until coach Ron Rivera spoke on Monday at the NFL owners meetings is that Newton has been dealing with this injury since college, and that in the past rest and rehab has made it better.
So the Panthers made the right call to go forward with the surgery that tightened the ligaments in Newton's left ankle. In the long run, according to orthopedic surgeon Glenn Pfeffer, it will make Newton better.
"You have the injury, the ankle becomes loose,'' Pfeffer said. "That is almost guaranteed to cure with proper surgery. But if you keep playing on a loose ankle, like skiing on bindings that are too loose, you are prone to other injuries.
"He will do well. A great athlete like him will be better than he was before this ankle started bothering him. The success rate is way past 90 percent.''
Pfeffer said the key is not to rush Newton back. When you hear Newton could be throwing by June, that is a possibility.
According to Pfeffer, the patient typically isn't allowed to put any weight on the ankle for four to six weeks. He said the ligaments could be healed within three months, but it may take longer for the nerve-endings to completely heal.
In other words, it's not worth rushing Newton back just so he will have a few weeks to throw with a rebuilt wide receiver corps.
"It's not just the ligaments that get stretched out, it's the nerve endings that get damaged,'' Pfeffer said. "Theoretically, he could play in 10 weeks. That ligament tissue is near healed. The problem is the nerve endings, the balance, the muscle strength not coming back -- especially with his style of play. That leaves him vulnerable to injury.''
Pfeffer said people that have this kind of surgery typically wear a lace-up ankle brace for six months. But in the long run, he said Newton should be better than ever.
"For a guy who tends to hang out in the pocket and doesn't run much, that doesn't have tremendous athleticism in running style, he might not have needed surgery,'' Pfeffer said. "But somebody like Cam, with an explosive style and ballistic move, the guy becomes more vulnerable when he has a loose ligament.''
That Newton has played with the injury since he was at Auburn shows how tough and strong he is.
When the injury is healed, he should be even stronger.