• 37°

Panthers staying mum on Cam Newton’s future

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE (AP) — While Cam Newton remains optimistic about his chances of playing for the Carolina Panthers next season, the team is remaining mostly silent on the quarterback’s future.

“He’s rehabbing, that’s all I can say,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney told The Associated Press in reference to the foot injury that caused Newton to miss the final 14 games last season.

Hurney refused to answer several follow-up questions about Newton’s future with the team or the comments the QB made recently at the Super Bowl were he said he’s “absolutely” certain he’ll be back in Carolina.

Newton described on the Tiki & Tierney radio show last week an “unbelievable conversation” with Panthers owner David Tepper, new coach Matt Rhule and Hurney.

“I left that meeting inspired,” Newton said on the show “I told them, ‘You won’t find another person in that locker room with more to prove — not only to you, but I got to prove to myself.’”

But Hurney isn’t discussing that meeting — or much else.

The Panthers haven’t given any assurances they plan to bring Newton back next season. And the reality is they might not know at this point what direction they’re headed with the 31-year-old former league MVP.

Tepper has previously said the team would wait to see how Newton responds to rehabilitation following surgery on his foot before making any decisions about the QB. Hurney declined to say how that rehab is going or when the team expects Newton to be healthy.

The Panthers are embarking on a major rebuilding process after hiring a college head coach in Rhule and a young offensive coordinator in Joe Brady. At LSU, Brady was the Tigers passing game coordinator. Quarterback Joe Burrow helped lead the team to a national title.

The Panthers have also lost perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly to retirement and released 34-year-old veteran tight end Greg Olsen.

That has brought into question why the team would want to bring back Newton when they appear to be headed in a different direction.

Newton has struggled in recent years, losing his last eight starts for the Panthers while battling through shoulder and foot issues. He played only two games last season and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He was a non-factor in the run game, which has been his strength through the years.

There is a huge financial element to consider, too.

Newton is entering the final year of a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension. He’s scheduled to cost $21.1 million under this season’s salary cap, but the team could free up $19 million in cap space by trading or releasing the league’s 2015 Most Valuable Player. So if the team parts ways with Newton, they’d only be on the hook for a $2 million cap hit in 2020.

Tepper said in December that his focus is avoiding the “long-term mediocrity” that has plagued the franchise.

He’s made it clear that he wants sustained excellence and went out of his way to say that will take some time and patience.

“Do you think I can promise to anyone that things can be great in one year?” Tepper said. “Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy? … If you think something great gets built in one second, then that’s wrong. You shouldn’t expect it, and fans shouldn’t expect. I’m not talking about one year. I’m talking about a standard that will be built and sustained.”

The Panthers don’t have much proven depth behind Newton at quarterback.

Kyle Allen struggled in Newton’s absence with more turnovers than touchdown passes, while rookie Will Grier failed to impress after starting the final two games of the season, although the Panthers were plagued by injuries at the time.

The Panthers have the No. 7 pick in the NFL draft and drafting a quarterback remains an option.

However, a Brady-Burrow reunion in Carolina seems unlikely given the Cincinnati Bengals have the No. 1 pick and appear enamored with the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.

Comments

Local

Firefighters respond to structure fire near 300 block of Elliot Drive

Elections

Biden officially secures enough electors to become president

Crime

Ex-investment manager accused of defrauding NC Mutual Life Insurance Co. out of $34 million

News

NC Senate leader Berger names chief of staff

Nation/World

Two men found dead at Fort Bragg identified; no details on cause released

Nation/World

Most American troops leaving Somalia

Health

As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats also a concern

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Another week of grim statistics show worsening state of virus in Rowan County

Crime

Halifax County man charged in Rockwell vehicle break-ins

Coronavirus

Judge names third-party expert to scrutinize COVID-19, closures in NC prisons

Crime

Durham man charged, held in Rowan after three-county chase

Education

North Rowan High School pantry opens for students

Coronavirus

State officials reluctant to add new restrictions

Business

Warner Bros. will stream all 2021 films on HBO Max

Business

Artist paints new sign on recently renovated Barnhardt Jewelers building

Elections

Hand recount in NC chief justice race set to begin next week

News

Cooper eyes bipartisan panel on health care

Local

Public input scheduled, changes to downtown coming as part of Main Street plan

Nation/World

Optimism growing for COVID relief bill

Local

Spencer nails down plans for Christmas drive-in

Crime

Blotter: Man arrested for probation violation faces charges for bringing drugs into jail

Crime

Three charged with drug, weapons offenses following a traffic stop

Coronavirus

County, state set new records for COVID-19 as growing positivity rate signals ‘critical levels’ of community spread

China Grove

Growing greens: Main Street Marketplace hopes hydroponic garden will help organization grow