The Curious and Complex Conundrum of Cameron Jerrell Newton

The Curious and Complex Conundrum of Cameron Jerrell Newton

While the league self flagellates and realises the error of its ways with regards to Colin Kaepernick and his kneeling protest, many are coming out in support of him being on a roster, even if that’s just as a backup.

However, almost unnoticed, is the availability of another quarterback with extraordinary ability who in recent times led his team to a Super Bowl and won the league MVP along the way – Cameron Jerrell Newton.

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Newton is currently the 13th highest active rusher in the NFL in yards – 4806 to his name, at 5.1 per carry and 58 touchdowns.

That’s more yards per carry than any of the 12 rushers above him, only Russell Wilson, well behind in total yards, manages more at 5.5, but he only has 19 touchdowns.

Pre-injury in the 2018 season he was throwing at a career high completion percentage of 67%, above that of his MVP season.

The man will be 31 during next season and if Instagram videos are anything to go by, would not look out of place on a stage at a local level bodybuilding show. A far cry from the Tom Hanks in Castaway meets Grizzly Adams appearance of some of his contemporaries.

And yet he has been released by Carolina Panthers with a year left on a very affordable $20m contract in favour of Teddy Bridgewater.

Even if his dress sense may put you off, he is still a better option at quarterback for around half of the current NFL teams and could be for the next few years.

Although from the outside it may appear that Cam is a polarising player, there haven’t ever been any problems in the Panthers locker room.

The somewhat sullen youth he was portrayed as has long disappeared in favour of the locker room leader.

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He galvanised the squad into flex Friday photo shoots last year showing the team all working out together then taking the group flexing shot, even roping the notoriously shy Luke Kuechly into one.

His charity work has provided over $5m to schools in Atlanta and Charlotte. He also, by a landslide, won the Walter Payton Man of the Year charity award, where Panthers fans nearly broke Twitter voting for him.

Newton is loved by the kids who get touchdown balls on a regular basis and he is well known to be more than happy to spend time signing autographs.

Since college, there have been no “incidents”, so why has Cam still not been signed?

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Firstly, there was the injury.

Everyone knows he has recently had two major injuries, one on his throwing shoulder and the other, his foot.

He first had surgery for a rotator cuff tear in March 2017, several months after the injury initially occurred and came back later that season leading the team to the wild card. At the same time, Andrew Luck missed the whole season.

In 2018 he injured his shoulder in the disastrous Thursday night loss to Pittsburgh, a hit by TJ Watt damaging it severely.

Newton tried to tough it out, but towards the end of the season was throwing ducks. He missed the last two games, but didn’t get surgery until January.

He looked good to go on return with a new throwing motion at training camp 2019, but again, disaster struck in a pre-season outing when he was tackled from behind and hurt his foot.

What initially appeared to be a strain, or an ankle twist, turned out to be a far more serious lisfranc injury.

After trying to play the first two games of the season and attempting to rehab the injury naturally, he eventually had to admit defeat and got surgery in December, several months after the initial diagnosis.

Here in lies the first problem. Teams can’t get a look at him to see how fit he really is. Instagram videos are one thing, 300lb linemen are another.

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But it appears new Panthers owner David Tepper may have been more spooked by Cam playing down the injuries than the injuries themselves.

The team record since Tepper spent over $2b is 11-21. Newton played in only 16 of those games and was healthy for 9.

A man used to succeeding in business appears to not trust his star quarterback to be honest about his health.

Whether Newton doesn’t like surgery or has an inflated machismo regarding injuries, we don’t know, but either way, it seems to be what got him through the exit door in Carolina.

The former MVP’s next problem is that his CV is too good for most teams.

If you’re hiring, you don’t offer a former CEO of a company a job doing the filing, and a healthy Cam Newton is an NFL starter, not a backup. This creates a problem for teams both financially, and mentally.

If you bring him in, your incumbent is as good as done.

There’s no suggestion he has been disruptive in the locker room but he is a big personality and one that will end up being dominant over a short period of time.

And this leads on to the final issue for any general manager or coach.

Bringing Cam in means you’re admitting your own guy, isn’t the guy.

While that might be okay in a couple of situations where the quarterback is older, say Pittsburgh, nearly every team has recently invested with either money or high draft capital. Most notable that fall into this category would be the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Chicago Bears.

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But, with that said, plenty of teams, probably even his old one would likely be improved if he’s healthy.

And again, that’s the real trick, due to his late release from Carolina and the inability to travel and be tested due to the corona virus pandemic, we’re in the dark on his health.

It may well take a starter to go down during the season and the SOS signal to be shone before we get to see the man previously known as SuperCam, once more.