CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Cam Newton prepared like he was about to step on a football field.
He stretched his legs a little bit, moved around and told some jokes. And then when it was his turn, he ran onto the Topgolf course with his arms straight out, just like he would at Bank of America Stadium.
And then the Panthers quarterback asked the 1,300 kids and family members in attendance for a little help.
A little help to “fix his issue.”
At Cam Newton’s eighth annual Thanksgiving Jam on Monday, Newton made his first public appearance since being placed on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury Nov. 5. The event brought 1,300 kids and some family members from Charlotte together, feeding them a Thanksgiving meal and giving them another full meal to bring home for Thursday. They also enjoyed a night full of dancing and golf, and time with Newton, who made sure he took a selfie with everyone that asked. And he made sure to joke with the children who opted not to have gravy or green beans on their plate.
But the big question on everyone’s mind was Newton’s future with the Panthers. And that “issue” he has been dealing with since August. For the nine-year veteran, the time away from the football field hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a trying year for me in multiple ways,” Newton said. “But at the end of the day, being around this type of atmosphere, it would help anyone.”
Multiple times Monday, Newton mentioned that it has been a hard year and a “long process.” He told the kids, many donning his jersey, that he “really, really missed them.”
“Even though I’m born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, I did my stint in so many different colleges, but Charlotte is home,” Newton said. “Charlotte is a place that I know that people know me, not just assuming how I am, they know my energy, they know what I like, they know what I don’t like, for me to have that type of presence just gratifies or reminds you that it’s right.”
Newton only played in two regular-season games this year after he suffered the foot injury in the team’s third preseason game at the New England Patriots.
At the Thanksgiving Jam, Newton shared that the injury and the time away from the field forced him to reflect and change his perspective.
“I was in a place where I wasn’t used to being and you know a team that you’re a part of is equipped with everything except for your presence, so to speak,” Newton said. “But at the same time, me being in the position I am, me having the impact and me having the pinnacle that I did have, I think it is extremely important to remove my ego, so to speak, and just to put the team first and just to put others first.”
Newton acknowledging that Carolina was built to win now is an idea that has been circling around the Panthers all season. Despite the team having strong core pieces, talk of “growing pains” and “learning experiences” accompany every less-than-satisfactory performance the young players have, including quarterback Kyle Allen, who has gone 5-4 in his starts this year.
Growing pains aren’t typically associated with playoff teams.
Despite a murky future, the Panthers showed their support of Newton at the event. Team owner David Tepper and his wife Nicole attended.
“It means a lot, him and his wife, just the unwavering support from them,” Newton said of the Teppers coming. “It’s so many people that help along the process to make my life easier and from comments to text messages to voicemails to phone calls to everything else. It’s just great to see certain people never changing up on you, and knowing you can always depend on certain people.”
Tepper’s support comes one week after he told Charlotte media that he did not know what comes next with Newton and the Panthers, and that the quarterback needed to be healthy. Health has been elusive for Newton, who underwent a procedure on his right shoulder in January after his throwing was significantly hindered by the injury during the 2018 season.
There likely won’t be a resolution to Newton’s long-term health - or his future with the Panthers - for quite some time. But when it comes to what he wants, he was firm on the fact that Charlotte is not just a place he plays football, it’s home.