In the search for some clarity – any clarity – on whether or not Cam Newton will be the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers in 2020, all anyone has been met with is a myriad of some alteration of the phrase “If he’s healthy.”
Until the Panthers determine whether Newton has made a full recovery from a season-ending Lisfranc injury, as well as whether he’s healthy in general after two straight years of season-ending injuries, little can be known as to whether or not they remain committed to him as their franchise quarterback. And considering the sensitive nature of the situation from both a medical and public relations perspective, little can be said about the matter either. So, it should come as no surprise that the company line on QB1 is once again being touted by Panthers brass.
On Tuesday, Panthers owner David Tepper welcomed 60 teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools to Bank of America Stadium, where he made the surprise announcement of a $120,000 mid-year funding boost to area elementary schools through the David Tepper Charitable Foundation, John M. Belk Endowment, and Carolina Panthers Charities. Meeting with the media following the announcement, the inevitable question of Cam Newton’s future came up – leading to an inevitable answer.
“I’ve said it again and again and again, it’s a question of how healthy he is, foot and otherwise,” Tepper told reporters. “And that’s still the number one, overwhelming thing to see how healthy he is, and how we can figure out when he’s healthy or not. And everything comes from that.”
Considering all of the outside chatter as to whether or not the Panthers are looking beyond Newton, Tepper was asked whether the Panthers have received inquiries from other teams as to Newton’s availability via trade, as well as if the team was looking to make a deal. But with the sort of quick wit that has come to be expected from him, Tepper was wholly noncommittal and deferred such matters to wife Nicole.
“She answers the phone at our house. But no, I haven’t heard of that,” said Tepper on the matter of a trade.
For the Panthers, navigating the murky waters of Newton’s health is far from a simple proposition. The second half of the 2018 season, as well as the 2019 season as a whole, arguably illustrated that he was the one thing keeping Carolina from total oblivion. But not only is Newton being an injured now inarguably a trend, he also may be on the “wrong side” of 30 years old. Newton will be 31 in May, which is a natural hindrance to him performing the same sort of physical feats he did when he was younger – so even if he were on the trading block, the calls would likely be sporadic until he can prove he’s back to 100%, both in foot and shoulder. The Panthers are also in the midst of a purge that has seen a clean break from several pillars of the franchise – namely head coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen, both of whom were not retained to be a part of the team’s future.
While fan anxiety and the nature of the NFL media business has pressed the Panthers for instant answers, a resolution on Cam Newton’s future likely won’t come until the team determines exactly where he stands physically. And that’s something that neither Tepper nor Newton are qualified to ascertain – so the answer to the biggest question in Panthers history will continue to remain unanswered.
“I’m not a doctor. … He’s not a doctor. So there’s a lot of different things that can happen,” said Tepper, demurring Newton’s assertion that he would “absolutely” be back in Carolina. “But first is, is he healthy?
“Tell me that, and then we can talk.”
Though Tepper’s comments on Newton’s status ended up overshadowing the day’s affairs, a great deal of good was done for the sake of Charlotte-area teachers. Through Classroom Central, the Panthers’ $120,000 donation will provide new school supplies to a total of 800 classrooms in 17 Title I Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools. The partnership between the Panthers and Classroom Central has already provided students with more than 15,000 backpacks and school supplies since the start of the 2019-20 school year.