The Carolina Panthers made it official, announcing the signing of former franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
The former NFL MVP and first overall draft pick was taking his physical in preparation of joining the team on Thursday afternoon.
The Panthers had a glaring need at quarterback after starter Sam Darnold went to injured reserve following a shoulder injury. Backup PJ Walker opened the week as the only quarterback on the roster, although the team quickly signed veteran Matt Barkley and have two quarterbacks on the practice squad.
The team reached out to Newton early in the week.
“I called Cam Monday night and asked if he’d have any interest,” coach Matt Rhule said. “He emphatically said yes.”
Newton returns to the team he quarterbacked for nine seasons, becoming the Panthers career leader in passing yardage and touchdowns and leading the team to Super Bowl 50. He was released following an injured-marred 2019 season and spent last year with the Patriots before getting released in the preseason.
There were no hard feelings between Newton and Rhule, who took over during the offseason when Newton was released.
“He understands that we made a football decision at the time, based on his health,” Rhule said. “He’s healthy now.”
Newton has not generated any public interest from prospective teams since his release by the Patriots before the Panthers reached out this week.
“Not playing this season (up until now), he’s as healthy as he possibly could be,” Rhule said.
Rhule announced that Walker will start this week’s game at Arizona, but Newton will be in the mix after that.
The move will certainly spark interest in a team that has lost four of five games since starting the season 3-0, although Rule emphasized that the impact of bringing back a popular star player did not go into the decision.
“We’re bringing Cam here not to energize anyone, not to sell season tickets,” he said. “I’m bringing him here to win. Cam Newton is a winner. I know he can help us win. A healthy Cam Newton is an excellent player.”
“This is a disciplined decision,” Rhule added. “We’re bringing in an excellent player that is healthy and wants to be here and win.”