After losing future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in free agency, the New England Patriots are heading into the 2020 season with some major questions at the most important position in the game. Adding Cam Newton on a one-year deal could be the answer to some of them — at the very least he offers a veteran presence and raises the current group’s floor — but the former Carolina Panthers quarterback is far from a certain bet to work out either.
Newton ended both the 2018 and 2019 season on the sidelines due to injury, and has never been able to quite reach the same level of play that he showed during his 2015 MVP campaign. That said, his ceiling in New England’s offensive system remains intriguing and one of his former companions feels strongly about his chances to still be a viable and healthy starting quarterback in the NFL: former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
“He’s headed in the right direction. I mean, he’s probably about as healthy as it gets from what I’ve seen on video. I think he’s ready to bust out,” Rivera said during an appearance on the McNeil & Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Monday when speaking about Newton’s physical state. “I would never bet against the young man, that’s for sure.”
Rivera certainly knows a thing or two about the newest Patriots quarterback. The two joined the organization in the same year, with Rivera taking over as head coach and Newton getting drafted first overall to serve as Carolina’s new starting quarterback. Over their nine seasons together, the team won three division titles and reached the Super Bowl once — all while Newton played in 125 regular season games and seven playoff contests.
Despite the change of scenery, however, Rivera still is confident in his former pupil’s abilities.
“Don’t bet against him. I really wouldn’t,” he said. “First of all, you got to know who he is and understand what all he’s gone through. He’s a guy that’s always tried to do things, I think, because he’s felt the pressure. He felt the pressure of being the number one overall pick. He felt the pressure of having won the Heisman Trophy and being the number one overall pick. He felt the pressure of being a black quarterback, with all the stuff that’s been heaped on him.”
Under Rivera’s tutelage, Newton grew to become one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history. The coach and his new team, the Washington Redskins, opted against bringing the 31-year-old on board after his release from the Panthers earlier this year, but he still believes in the former Pro Bowler who will now compete for a starting job in New England against second-year man Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer.
“He’s really had to find his way through it,” said Rivera, “and he’s done a great job with it.”