Flamboyance has never been a problem for Cam Newton. His sartorial splendor is worth noting every week when he takes the podium in the media room after games. He favors bright colors and styles that show he is clearly a fashion icon in the sports world.
Excuse Superman for a moment while he dabs.
That would be fine if it didn’t seem like the most important part of his persona wasn’t frequently being overlooked. Newton is a star quarterback, the NFL’s MVP in 2015, the axis upon which the Carolina Panthers twirl. And he wasn’t the kind of player he’s shown himself to be during the 2018 season.
Newton’s throwing shoulder was badly injured. It got to the point Panthers coach Ron Rivera knew he couldn’t ask his QB to throw the ball more than 25 yards downfield. He had become a liability. And that was bad news for the team.
With the start of the NFL season approaching on Sunday, the Panthers know that the health and well-being of Newton is perhaps their most important concern. But even though another arthroscopic shoulder surgery to relieve stiffness and tightness seems to have momentarily alleviated that anxiety, something else has popped up that’s made the team swallow hard again.
Newton suffered a sprained left foot in the third preseason game against the New England Patriots – his only appearance in the preseason – and has been hobbled by it since. And apprehension that he might not be ready for Sunday’s kickoff against the Los Angeles Rams wasn’t soothed until the team’s injury report was issued on Wednesday and he wasn’t on it.
“I feel like a rookie again,” Newton told the media on Wednesday. “I’m having fun, feeling good, and the thrill is still there.”
The best news of all is Rivera has promised there will be no limits imposed on the offense based on the status of his foot or shoulder.
“No reason to,” said Rivera. “He’s in great shape. He’s right where we need him to be. He’s thrown the ball very well. He’s been very sharp, as has the team as a whole. … I really do feel good about what he’s done. I love the work he’s put into it. He’s done a great job, and we’ll see how it all plays out on Sunday.”
This is Newton’s ninth season and it appears he’s still learning how best to prepare himself to play. He has added another element to his routine and it has to do with his diet.
“Vegan. Vegan strong,” Newton said. “That helps a lot. I’ve been a vegan all year, and I don’t think I’m going back. I feel good. I recover well. And that’s pretty much what it’s all about. … It’s not putting certain things in your body that is going to combat your body trying to recover. You want to put things in your body that is going to expedite that whole process.”
The Panthers were 6-2 in 2018 before Newton’s shoulder became problematic and they finished 7-9, far below the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South standings. Newton was so debilitated he didn’t play in the final two games.
“We want to get back to doing things we want to do when we want to do them,” said Newton.
No one is predicting the Panthers will be capable of overtaking the Saints this season, but there is always hope for a Wild Card and that will have a lot to do with how capable Newton continues to mesh with his talented teammates, particularly running back Christian McCaffrey and receivers Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore.
When asked about it, Newton went on a musical riff.
“First off, I’ve got a beef with all three of them, really,” said Newton. “They’ve got this thing right now where they’re a part of the rat pack, cat pack, whatever it is. And I was thinking they need like a lead singer, like The Temptations.
“David Ruffin was in The Temptations. It was David Ruffin and The Temptations. I was saying they’ve got to add me to it, Ace Boogie. … If they want to sell records, if they want to get noticed … they need to implement me in some type of way.”
As you can tell, Newton is still not adverse to having some fun. And even while his shoulder remained a concern during training camp, he made some time to pursue a record – in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Newton believes that he has the best hands in football, that if things were different he could have been a Pro Bowl receiver. He even poked at the Panthers a few years ago about not being on special teams during onside kick situations.
In July, he made 51 one-handed receptions in 60 seconds on passes from some YouTube superstar. That broke the previous mark of 49 set by Jarvis Landry and Brady Quinn with the Cleveland Browns.
Really, who even knew there was such a record?
“Let’s just put it like this: I have the best hands in the NFL,” said Newton. “You can document that. I have film. I really do have a film of me catching passes in an actual game. I didn’t drop one yet … that was catchable.”
Well, there is some truth to that. He made one catch for the Panthers in 2011 and made another two at Auburn the year before.
Newton still had more work to do. Throwing underhand, he connected with another YouTube dude for 39 yards, 12 inches to set the record for the longest catch between the legs. Then Newton completed a 24-yard pass to a blindfolded receiver to set a third mark.
“I want every time a person sees me play, talk, whatever, have a moment to reach the masses, I want them to see the joy,” said Newton. “As if it’s Day 1, because that’s how I feel.”