Ron Rivera on Cam Newton’s NFL free agency: ‘Don’t ever bet against him’

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Redskins head coach Ron Rivera thinks former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton has a chip on his shoulder — and that could be dangerous.

“The one thing about Cam Newton with an edge for something to prove, don’t ever bet against him,” Rivera told Jay Glazer on FS1.

Both he and Newton were dumped by the Panthers this past year after nine seasons as head coach and quarterback, respectively, as the team cleaned house to make way for a new Matt Rhule-Teddy Bridgewater era in Charlotte.

“From the people that are around him that I know, they’ve all said the same thing to me. They’ve said, ‘Coach, he looks great. He really does,’” Rivera said. “They also told me, ‘He’s a little bit different.’ His whole attitude — he’s got something to prove.”

At his peak, the 31-year-old Newton’s highly physical style as a dual-threat QB exposed him to a spate of injuries. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound signal-caller dealt with an ankle injury which required surgery in the early stages of his career, and has been less productive since winning NFL MVP during the 2015 season, when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl.

Former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera
Former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and head coach Ron RiveraCorbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Newton underwent rotator cuff surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2017, which still has some concerned. His former teammate, Mike Tolbert, accused the Panthers of repeatedly mismanaging his injuries and sabotaging his free agency.

“They’ve been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me,” the three-time Pro Bowl fullback told The Athletic recently. “It goes back to his shoulder surgery. Everyone knew his shoulder was messed up in the middle of the year two years ago. But they wait until offseason gets ready to start to have shoulder surgery.”

Newton’s most recent ailment was a Lisfranc fracture he suffered in the third preseason game last year. He played in just the first two games last year, completing 56.2 percent of his passes for 572 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and two fumbles, and was later placed on injured reserve.

“I think [injuries are] probably the biggest [concern], more than anything else,” Rivera said. “You’ve got to know. The foot and the shoulder will be the two biggest concerns everybody has.”

Newton’s plight has been an unfortunate casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, which has halted all football-related activities, and with it, any interested teams who are unable to evaluate the former Heisman Trophy winner in person.

Newton’s free agency campaign began in March 17 when the Panthers announced they would grant him the option to seek a trade. Newton cried foul, however, and called the team out for trying to “manipulate the narrative and act like [he] wanted this.”

He was unceremoniously released a day after they signed Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal, a move that saved the Panthers $19.1 million in cap space.

“[The Panthers] gave up on me,” Newton said after his release.

Newton has appeared in 125 regular-season games since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 29,041 yards, 182 touchdowns and 108 interceptions and has accrued 4,806 rushing yards and 58 rushing touchdowns.

nypost.com

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