He’s still dancing, he’s still talking trash. But as training camp begins, Cam Newton is at a crossroads. The Panthers’ offense is evolving, moving away from the approach that won 15 games and made Newton NFL MVP just two seasons ago. Now, the quarterback’s future hinges on one question: Can Cam change?
After lighting a cigar and taking a sip of red wine, Cam Newton opened up about his injury status in a video published on his YouTube channel on Friday.
Expanding on and, in some cases, countering previous statements, Newton says he pushed himself to play Week 1 after spraining his left foot during the preseason. However, during warmups before that opener, Newton says to the camera, “I realized, Oh, I can’t run.”
The all-time leader in rushing touchdowns for a quarterback had only one positive carry in five rushes as the Panthers started 0-2. Perhaps the greatest proof something wasn’t right was in Carolina’s Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, when the Panthers took the ball out of Newton’s hands on a fourth-and-one near the goal line and called a Philly Special-like play for Christian McCaffrey that ultimately failed.
“The fact that people are saying, ‘Why didn’t Cam have the ball in his hands?,’” Newton says. “And I can honestly say if we had to do a quarterback sneak or I had to a quarterback run, I don’t know because I would have had to push off my foot. And for so long I’ve prided myself to say I can get one yard. I’m going to jump over you. I’m going to run through you. I’m going to run around you. And I wasn’t able to do [those things]. And I think that’s the thing that humbled me is like, ‘Cam ain’t the player that he used to be.’”
Newton then missed last week’s victory in Arizona and was ruled out for Carolina’s Week 4 contest against Houston the following day. As for when he could return, Newton confirmed there is no set timeline. “It could very well be a week. It could be two weeks... It could be four weeks... It could be six weeks,” he says, describing the specific mid-foot issue as a “mild Lisfranc” injury. The Athletic’s Joe Person previously reported that type of injury could keep Newton out four to eight weeks, and a source has indicated to The MMQB’s Jonathan Jones that Newton is expected to return after Carolina’s Week 7 bye.
The 15-minute video consists solely of Newton speaking to the camera while sitting in a studded chair and wearing an oversized newsboy cap. Sometimes passionate, other times reflective, he discussed the psychological impact of his latest setback. Newton’s 2018 season was cut short by a shoulder injury, which he had surgically repaired in January. He’s now winless in his last eight starts.
Newton implied the decision to sit was ultimately his own; while he claimed he could play if he absolutely had to, he felt it wasn’t in the team’s best interest to continue in his current state, especially given Carolina’s 0-2 start. Expressing confidence in his teammates (including backup Kyle Allen), trainers, and coaches, Newton added, “Until I’m my best self, I’ll be fine, comfortable knowing there is means to this madness… I’ve got to be 100%.”
Launching his own YouTube Channel this year with a series of videos co-created by his own production company, Newton is just the latest athlete to find a direct outlet for his perspective—one that’s more sophisticated than a Notes app screenshot and more commercial than a typical social media account.
This spring, Kevin Durant posted on YouTube with his own injury update. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union previously shared the birth of Kaavia James Union Wade on the platform. Last week, it was Jalen Ramsey breaking news about his decision to request a trade from the Jaguars on his new Uninterrupted podcast, 17 Weeks. Before that, Antonio Brown made waves by releasing audio of a private conversation with Raiders coach Jon Gruden in a highly produced video, ultimately getting himself released. News is increasingly coming from the athlete-driven projects, where players are often surprisingly forthcoming.
At the beginning of Thursday’s update, Newton explained why he was providing his perspective online rather than in a traditional press setting.
“I want to be brutally honest,” he says. “I want to do things on my terms and this YouTube channel has allowed me to do that. So pardon the smoke. Pardon the wine. But I plan on being here in a fashion that I’m comfortable. I don’t have to beat to nobody else’s drum except for mine.”