Shark Bites

Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said QB Cam Newton is “on schedule” to participate in training camp. He played the final 4 games of last season with a partially torn rotator cuff and underwent surgery on his right shoulder on March 30. Per the Panthers, Newton should resume throwing around late June. We’ll track his progress throughout the summer as he tries to rebound from a disappointing 2016.

The Panthers have inked RB Jonathan Stewart to a 1-year extension. He was set to hit free agency next offseason but is now signed in Carolina through the 2018 campaign. Stewart turned 30 a few days ago and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last year, so this is a curious move. He's the favorite, at least at this point, to serve as Carolina's lead back in 2017. But the Panthers are still a candidate to add a RB early in next month's draft.

Panthers QB Cam Newton will undergo surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder on March 30, the team announced. The injury reportedly occurred in Carolina's Week 14 game against the Chargers. Newton completed just 10 of 27 passes for 160 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in that one. He played in the final 3 games, completing 50.9% of his passes and averaging 245 yards, 1.3 TDs and 1.7 INTs per game. It certainly seems like the injury impacted his play, but it doesn't explain Newton's struggles prior to Week 14. He completed only 54.7% of his passes and averaged 238 yards, 1.3 TDs and .7 INTs in 11 games before the injury. The Panthers hoped rest and rehab would heal Newton's shoulder, but he was still experiencing pain when he resumed throwing earlier this month. So he'll go under the knife. Newton will resume throwing 12 weeks after surgery (late June) and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. We'll track his recovery.

The Panthers reached a deal late Friday with former Vikings WR Charles Johnson. That gives Carolina both of the NFL's players by that name -- the other plays DE -- as well as a speed receiver to fill Ted Ginn's vacated role. Johnson, of course, failed to deliver much fantasy relevance in Minnesota and will slot behind at least Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen in Carolina. He'll likely fit behind WR Devin Funchess as well and will need to compete with fellow free-agent addition Russell Shepard -- plus whoever else arrives this offseason. Don't bet on fantasy impact from Johnson with the Panthers

Panthers HC Ron Rivera said at the Combine Thursday that he wants to scale back QB Cam Newton's rushing attempts. Rivera hinted at this earlier in the offseason, saying, " “our primary runner cannot be our QB." Newton already set career lows with 90 carries and 359 rushing yards last year. A further decline in volume would make it tough for him to score as better than a lower-end QB1. Newton hasn't hit 4,000 passing yards since his 2011 rookie campaign and has only once topped 24 passing TDs.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (elbow) is active for today’s finale vs. the Bucs. He put in a full practice on Friday, so the elbow doesn’t seem like a major concern. There’s still a chance Olsen is limited in a game that’s meaningless for Carolina, but he’s at least worth sticking with in season-long lineups.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) is active for today’s game against the Bucs. There’s still a chance that his workload is limited in a game that means nothing to Carolina, making Stewart a risk/reward fantasy play.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game against the Bucs. He didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday but was a full-go on Friday. That suggests that he’ll play, but his workload could still be limited in a game that means nothing to Carolina.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (elbow) is officially questionable for Sunday’s finale vs. the Bucs. He put in a full practice on Friday after sitting out the previous 2 days, so it looks like he’ll play. Olsen hasn’t missed a game since his 2007 rookie campaign.

Panthers WR Devin Funchess has been placed on IR with the knee injury he suffered in last week's loss to the Falcons. He'll miss Sunday's finale vs. the Bucs. Funchess finishes his 2nd season with a 23-371-4 line in 15 appearances. All 3 marks were down from his 2015 rookie campaign.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury. His last carry in Week 16 came late in the 3rd quarter. It looks like he's in danger of missing this weekend's finale -- which, of course, is meaningless to the Panthers. Stewart's absence would leave Carolina's backfield to Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker.

Panthers HC Ron Rivera confirmed Wednesday that MLB Luke Kuechly will sit out Sunday's season finale against the Buccaneers. Kuechly has cleared the concussion protocol, but Carolina has elected to keep him out of the final few games. Two straight seasons of multiple-game absences for concussions raises questions about Kuechly's long-term future, though he has said he's not considering retirement. We'll see what else this story has in the offseason. A.J. Klein will start in his place again, but OLB Shaq Thompson has passed him to sit #2 behind Thomas Davis in playing time among Carolina LBs.

Panthers WR Devin Funchess suffered a knee injury in the 2nd half of Sunday's game against the Falcons and is officially questionable to return. He hauled in just 1 of 5 targets for 9 yards before exiting. The 2nd-year wideout hasn't topped 3 catches in a game all season.

Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly is inactive for tonight's game against Washington, despite clearing the concussion protocol this week. HC Ron Rivera said previously that didn't necessarily mean Kuechly would play and that he would put the player's future first in making the decision. Carolina's choice to keep Kuechly on the sideline raises the possibility of him sitting out the next 2 games as well. We'll see if/when we get word from the Panthers on that. If you'd been waiting on Kuechly for Week 15, it's time to start someone such as fill-in MLB A.J. Klein or Washington ILB Mason Foster in his place in your IDP lineup.

Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly has been cleared to return to game action after missing the past 3 weeks with a concussion. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll play Monday night against Washington, though. If you're waiting for him for your IDP lineup, make sure you have insurance. Options in the same game -- for various league sizes -- include Thomas Davis, A.J. Klein and Mason Foster.

Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly put in a full practice Thursday, the 1st official day of the week since Carolina plays Washington on Monday night. Kuechly didn't make it to "full" status until Friday last week and then fell short of clearance for the game. We'll see if he can make that final step in his progression through the league concussion protocol this time around.

Panthers K Graham Gano has a broken bone in the heel of his plant foot. Gano and team doctors recognized the issue during last week's game against the Chargers. Gano played through it and connected on 4 FGs and 2 XPs. The injury might not be a major issue, but we'd rather roll with a healthy K in your fantasy playoffs.

Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly couldn't quite gain final clearance to play Sunday against the Chargers, but HC Ron Rivera said plans haven't changed going forward. “No. I’ll go along with what the doctors tell me,” Rivera told the Charlotte Observer. “That’s the truth of the matter.” He was reportedly responding to a question about whether the team would go ahead and shut Kuechly down for the rest of the year even if he clears the concussion protocol. This is the 2nd straight year in which Kuechly has lost 3 games to a concussion. We'll see what the situation means for Kuechly's long-term future. IDP owners can keep him on 2016 rosters, though, in hopes that you'll be able to use him over the final 2-3 fantasy weeks.

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin tallied just 1 reception among 3 targets in Sunday's win over the Chargers. QB Cam Newton completed just 10 of 27 passes on the day, and Benjamin faced a predictably tough matchup with San Diego CB Casey Hayward. It was Benjamin's 3rd straight game with 2 or fewer receptions. It's tough to even consider him a starting option for next week's trip to Washington (and CB Josh Norman).

Panthers WR Devin Funchess needed stitches for a split lip early in Sunday's win over the Chargers, but he returned to catch a 6-yard TD in the 2nd quarter. His 5 targets ranked 2nd on the team, but he caught just 1 other pass and totaled a mere 33 yards. No Carolina WR looks like a safe bet in fantasy right now in a poorly performing pass offense.


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