Colin Kaepernick can’t get an NFL job, for reasons we’re all pretty clear on. But Cam Newton, the former Carolina Panthers quarterback who is only the sixth Black quarterback to play in a Superbowl, is still unemployed.
The question is Why? In 2018, the Panthers went 6-1 until Newton went down with a shoulder injury. Despite the efforts of team MVP running back Chris McCaffrey, they finished the season 7-9 and haven’t truly been contenders since. Last season, Newton spent most of the season on the injured list after being largely ineffective in his first two games.
At 31, with a surgically repaired foot and shoulder, Newton has been showing off workouts on his social media accounts. However, no team has picked him up even as a reserve for the 2020-2021 season.
Was it because this year’s draft picks – Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, the oft-injured Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama and #1 pick, LSU’s Joe Burrows were part of a good QB class? Although all are talented, they are still unproven in the big boy league of the NFL.
Was Newton’s age a factor?
There are several talented quarterbacks in the league including the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Houston Texan Deshaun Watson, Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, and Buffalo Bills’ Kyle Allen, who are all under 25.
But injuries are always a factor in the NFL and none of the above QB’s have great backups should any of them go down. A natural place for Newton might be the Washington Redkins coached by former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, as their current starting QB, Dwayne Haskins in unproven, to say the least. But so far, no overtures from the ‘Skins that anyone knows of.
Now a former teammate of Newton’s says one of the issues impeding Newton’s marketability is that his injuries were mishandled by the Panthers. Former Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert had a few opinions on the issue when he was interviewed for The Athletic.
“They’ve been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me,” Tolbert said. “It goes back to his shoulder surgery. Everyone knew his shoulder was messed up in the middle of the year two years ago. But they wait until offseason gets ready to start to have shoulder surgery. Makes no sense. Timing’s off.
“As soon as he got hurt [last] preseason against the Patriots, they were saying, ‘Oh, he’s got a high-ankle sprain.’ … But you wait ’til December for him to beg you to have surgery. He shouldn’t have been out there Week 1 and 2. He shouldn’t have been out there probably ’til Week 4 or 5, at minimum.”
There is also the issue of Newton’s ability to lead a franchise from a PR standpoint. Though the affable QB was once known for his signature ‘dab’ in recent years, he’s been best known off the field for his questionable wardrobe decisions which prompted sports announcer Jason Whitlock to question whether he could be the face of an NFL franchise.
Newton also has the hint of scandal following him as after four children with his longtime girlfriend Kia Proctor, the two broke up and are working out custody and child support details in a case that went public. One of the rumored reasons for the breakup is that Newton allegedly fathered another child with Instagram model LaReina Shaw.
(Kia Proctor, with her daughter Shakira and three children of the four children she has with Newton)
It is likely that Newton, despite any baggage, will find a home during the upcoming season as you can be sure of two things in the NFL – injuries and the need for quality quarterbacks.
Newton, who celebrated his birthday earlier this month, seems certain he’ll play again. In his workout videos, he looks like he’s back at 100%, though its hard to tell without NFL defenders putting that to the test.
But in his own words on a recent Instagram post – “Learn to trust the journey, even when you don’t understand it.”
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