Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has two fractures in his back after his truck crashed and overturned Tuesday in uptown Charlotte, according to the team.
Newton has two transverse process fractures in his lower back but no further internal or apparent head injuries, the team said at a news conference.
A transverse process is a bony protrusion from the back of a vertebrae bone in the spine. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fractured two transverse processes in his back in an Oct. 27 game against Washington, according to media reports, and missed the team’s next game.
Team officials had no comment on Newton’s football-related status but were privately doubtful he could play in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
Newton, lying on a sidewalk in black workout clothes, was treated on the bridge for at least 20 minutes before a Medic ambulance took him away. The crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m. one block from Bank of America Stadium, where the Panthers say he was headed on his day off to watch game film.
The Panthers said Newton will stay in the hospital overnight for observation.
Panthers officials expressed relief that Newton hadn’t been more badly hurt considering the significant damage to his truck.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson told an Observer reporter at the hospital that he had spoken to Newton’s doctors but had not seen the player himself. “He’s in good shape,” Richardson said.
A second person, from the second vehicle involved in the collision, was taken by ambulance to a hospital about 10 minutes before Newton.
A witness, Tony Douglas, said he was walking on Church Street when he saw a Buick sedan and Newton’s Dodge truck collide.
Douglas said the truck was heading south on Church and the sedan was crossing Church from Hill Street when they hit.
The truck flipped several times, he said, coming to rest on its passenger side. Douglas said he ran to the truck and saw the quarterback inside.
Afterward, he said, Newton “was alert. He was in pain.”
Observer reporter Karen Sullivan said she saw the truck travel over the top of the sedan and become airborne for a short distance, rolling side over side when it landed.
The windows shattered before the truck came to rest sideways on Church, Sullivan said. The driver, later identified as Newton, then lifted himself out of the back window and staggered over to the side of the bridge, where he waited for medical help.
Other witnesses gave varying accounts of the crash.
Joshua Wrona said he was driving three or four car lengths behind Newton on Church Street at the time of the wreck.
He said the Buick suddenly appeared in his field of view and hit Newton’s truck.
“From my vantage point, he came out of nowhere and hit Cam. It was a pretty vicious collision,” Wrona said. The Buick “was moving quick, I’ll say.”
The car appeared to hit the tire of Newton’s truck, whose body sits high off the ground, he said. The truck swerved and skidded onto its side. Wrona said it didn’t flip.
The Buick’s unidentified driver, writhing in pain on the sidewalk, told police that he was crossing Church Street when a truck “came flying down” the street and struck him.
Four passersby called 911 to report the wreck, according to recordings released by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
“I just noticed a car flipping,” one man said.
Another driver said she was driving beneath the overpass on I-277 when she saw a vehicle rolling over above on the overpass.
A second woman sounded as if she was on foot and approaching the scene. “He needs an ambulance,” she said.
Both Newton and the other driver were placed on backboards and in neck braces before being transported by ambulance.
The Buick Verano with temporary Georgia license tags later sat in Church Street near its intersection with Hill Street. It had been struck on the front-right side, with the hood buckled and bumper torn off.
The truck also had extensive front-right damage. The passenger compartment was partially flattened.
The Panthers drafted Newton No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL draft. Panthers coaches and front office executives have referred to Newton as their franchise quarterback.
In his fourth season, Newton has the Panthers, 4-8-1, a half-game out of first place in the NFC South. Newton has twice gone to the Pro Bowl, and he’s in the final year of his rookie deal. He will make $14.667 million next season with the Panthers, who picked up his fifth-year option in the spring.
Michael Gordon, Jonathan Jones, Joe Marusak, Doug Miller, Joe Person, Ely Portillo And Todd Sumlin contributed