Two years ago, Cam Newton exploded all over the NFL, winning the MVP in a walk and leading his Panthers right up to the edge of a Super Bowl victory. But last year, it all came crashing back down, as the Panthers never got going and finished 6-10, well out of a playoff spot.
Newton, as the centerpiece of the team, took heat for the team’s performance, but in the offseason revealed that he’d played injured for several games toward the end of the year. Newton suffered a partially torn rotator cuff with four weeks left in the year, but didn’t shut down; instead, he threw for 895 yards and led the team to a 2-2 record over that span. Three weeks ago, Newton underwent surgery on his throwing arm, and on Wednesday, answered questions for the team website after a workout.
Asked about the wisdom of playing while injured, Newton executed a verbal version of one of his pocket escapes, turning a negative implication into a statement on leadership: “Was it smart? People may say it wasn’t, but at the end of the day, I think the bigger picture was, I’m one of the leaders on this team,” he said. “I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”
Newton won’t be cleared to throw until June, but he should be ready to go by the time training camp opens in July. The Panthers will ride or die based on Newton, and he knows it, which is why he felt it necessary to play hurt.
“At the end of the day, I felt as if there was another thing that was achieved,” he said. “I wear the ‘C’ patch on my jersey with great pride, and I feel as if it comes around again, would I reconsider it? Yeah, but also knowing those guys … I’m going to give every single thing that I have to give for this game, for the fans, for my teammates, especially.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.