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Source: Cam Newton will have ‘relatively simple’ surgery to repair Lisfranc injury. What does that mean?

Carolina Panthers franchise quarterback Cam Newton is striving to cement one certainty, when it comes to his future: He is going to get healthy.

Or at least, exercise all options — even one he initially did not want to pursue — in his attempt to do so.

Newton will have surgery this month to repair a Lisfranc injury on his left foot, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

That procedure was described by the source as ‘relatively simple’ — a tightening of the Lisfranc area, which the source said should bode well for a shorter relative recovery time.

The NFL Network’s Tiffany Blackmon broke the news of Newton’s impending procedure just minutes after now-former head coach Ron Rivera’s emotional final press conference on Wednesday morning at Bank of America Stadium.

In his press conference, Rivera alluded to some clarity revealing itself regarding Newton’s health in the near future. Surgery could certainly have been what he was referencing, because though Lisfranc surgery requires an arduous recovery process, it is considered to be a “permanent” or at least near-permanent fix for the injury.

“I think, now, that the uncertainty (about Newton’s injury) is going to be ironed out,” Rivera said Wednesday morning. “He’ll come back, and we’ll see what happens for him.”

Experts say that Lisfranc surgery would require a six-month minimum recovery time. Dr. David Chao, a former NFL team doctor who is still in practice, as well as a consultant, told The Athletic last month that a standard Lisfranc surgery recovery time could be anywhere between 6-9 months.

But, he added recently, that could depend on the severity of the injury. An expedited process could be possible, and some national reports have even gone so far as to project only an 8-to-10 week recovery timeline for Newton.

That’s an extremely optimistic timeline, according to Chao. But it could be enough for Newton to pass a physical — which he would need to do to come off injured reserve and/or sign with another team.

Initial wording of Newton’s injury by team sources earlier this year indicated that it was on the less severe side, suggesting that the damage was ligament-related, not bone-related.

While surgery will put a more definitive stamp on Newton’s recovery timeline, it’s less clear why he only now has decided to go that route — even though there is optimism about his projected recovery time. The question is — if this was the fix all along, why now?

It would appear that this is the last possible month for Newton to pursue this option, and still be able to project a springtime return date — at the very least, a minimal return to football duties.

Regardless, the timeline is tight. Chao said that a Lisfranc “tightening” is exactly what it sounds like — tightening the widened gap between first and second metatarsals in the foot. That can be done via screw or suture — and yes, that surgery is simpler than a typical Lisfranc repair. But still, the healing process after surgery can be ambiguous.

Newton first injured his foot in the preseason against New England, then re-aggravated the injury in Week 2 at Tampa Bay (sharing later that he dealt with pain and discomfort through that time).

The Panthers refrained from putting Newton on injured reserve through the first half of the season, as he tried to rehabilitate his foot without surgery.

He also sought a third medical opinion in early November — still not on injured reserve — from renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson. Anderson’s recommendation, sources said at the time, was still the non-surgical route.

Anderson, a former Panthers doctor, discussed Lisfranc injuries in a 2013 article on NFL.com, saying that players taking a non-surgical approach usually need six to eight weeks before they can return.

When Newton sought Anderson for an opinion, sources said he had grown frustrated and anxious about the fickle nature of the injury, and its ambiguous recovery time. Newton had also recently recovered from his second shoulder surgery in three years.

The following week, Newton was placed on injured reserve, effectively ending his season. His future is unclear in Carolina, but team owner David Tepper remarked in mid-November that in a perfect world, a “healthy” Newton would lead the Panthers back to the Super Bowl.

Tepper also added that the team would not make a decision until Newton is healthy — and he can’t, anyway, until the new league year in March. If an 8-to-10 week recovery timeline is indeed what Newton expects out of this procedure, he would be back to health by that time.

“Hopefully Cam’s healthy. I frankly don’t know, and neither does Cam right now,” said Tepper, when speaking with media following his firing of Rivera on Tuesday. He will begin the search for a new head coach immediately, and did not indicate whether Newton’s health or long-term future would be a factor in that process.

“By the way, the last time I looked, there’s three quarterbacks on this team,” he said. “Kyle Allen, who you’ve seen a lot of, still young. (Third-round pick) Will Grier, who hasn’t been in yet, who we’re developing in a very traditional way, who may be very good at some point, and Cam Newton.”

In his final comments to Charlotte media, Rivera expressed optimism about Newton’s future.

“I’ll tell you right now,” he said, “we saw last year — until the Pittsburgh game — what a healthy Cam can do.”

(Top photo of Cam Newton: John Byrum / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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