Sportress of Blogitude

Cam Newton plays Santa Tuesday, returns to Panthers practice Wednesday (pics)

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Cam Newton, still recovering from a potentially horrific car accident last week that amazingly only left the Carolina Panthers quarterback with two transverse process fractures in his back, played Santa Claus Tuesday, stopping by several Charlotte-area schools on Tuesday afternoon to spread some holiday cheer.

Newton paid visits to the schools as part four-hour tour for his “Santa Cam Surprise Sleigh” event. Newton played basketball — albeit gingerly — with students, while visiting with teachers, giving some of the educators $50 Belk gift cards at one stop.

Later, during a stop at the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope, a shelter for homeless women and children, Newton gave each woman a $40 gift card to Walmart, and each child an Under Armour toboggan hat.

In total, the clothing, gift cards and presents the quarterback provided through his Cam Newton Foundation totaled an approximate $31,000, per a Charlotte Observer report.

And then on Wednesday, Newton shed the Santa Claus persona and resumed the role of quarterback as he returned to Panthers practice for the first time since the accident. While Newton’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns is unknown, backup Derek Anderson, who played last week, took reps with Carolina’s first team offense.

Newton looked good during drills, per reports, running sprints and throwing the football well.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on Monday said the most important thing regarding whether or not Newton plays is if the quarterback is able to protect himself.

“The biggest factor will whether or not they tell me he can protect himself,” Rivera said. “I don’t want to put a guy out there if he can’t protect himself. By that, being able to run out of the way, scramble out of the way to stay alive, keep the play alive by being able to get out of the way.”

It arguably would be a surprise if Newton returned to the field this weekend, although it cannot be ruled out, especially given just how awful the accident appeared, as the quarterback’s truck rolled over during the two-vehicle accident, an incident in which neither Newton nor the other driver were cited for any violation.

Newton himself acknowledged in an Instagram post in the accident’s aftermath just how fortunate he was simply to be able to walk away from the wreckage. To be able to play Sunday would be icing on the cake.