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What Cam Newton said about what may be his last home game as a Panther, Sam Darnold

Rhule wisely picking his spots with each quarterback could spark the offense while maximizing both Darnold and Newton.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates after scoring during the first half of an...
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates after scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)(Rusty Jones | AP)
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 10:09 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER) - Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pushed quarterback controversies and nostalgia aside on Thursday and instead focused solely on delivering a rallying battle cry ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers’ visit to Bank of America Stadium.

“We are in dire need of a win for the community, for the organization, for just the overall you know, swagger and brashness of that locker room,” Newton said. “That’s what it really comes down to. Whatever it’s going to take. Whether it’s a two-quarterback system, three-quarterback system. Wildcat, Wild dog, trick play it out, man. Call it up, dial it up.”

Losers of four straight games and eight of their past 10, the Panthers are down bad. Their offense isn’t generating explosive plays or threatening defenses deep. Newton is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, worst in the league over the past three weeks.

His throwing struggles are apparent on tape, too. Against Buffalo, he underthrew receiver DJ Moore on what should’ve been a walk-in 56-yard touchdown.

Instead, Moore came back to the football, allowing cornerback Dane Jackson to break it up. That is a throw the coaching staff thinks Sam Darnold can make, which is why coach Matt Rhule said Darnold will play at some point against Tampa Bay.

It’s important to note that Rhule said the same thing last week about backup P.J. Walker, who didn’t see a snap at Buffalo. But this is different. Darnold is the only quarterback under contract next season. If the Newton experiment was working and the Panthers were battling for a wild-card spot then Darnold wouldn’t be a factor.

But that isn’t the case. Darnold may actually provide Carolina the best chance to win by throwing against a depleted Tampa Bay secondary. The Panthers’ last win came in Arizona when Walker started and Newton handled goal-line duties in a sort of Taysom Hill role.

The Saints use Hill primarily as a runner, and Newton is still effective on the ground.

Rhule wisely picking his spots with each quarterback could spark the offense while maximizing both Darnold and Newton.

“I hate the negligence of you know, me not wanting the best for Sam, when we’re teammates or vice versa,” Newton said. “I can kind of sense the kind of theory. ‘If he plays, what is that going to make you feel like?’ You know, at the end of the day we try to win. We all try to win.”

Interim play-caller Jeff Nixon said Darnold is ready to play. Like Rhule, he wouldn’t speculate on when or how much Darnold would be called upon. But he delivered a comfortable feeling that the offense won’t sputter regardless of who takes snaps.

“We have quarterbacks in our room that can do everything in our offensive system,” Nixon said. “It really doesn’t handicap us from a play-calling standpoint. Cam understands what we are trying to do, and Sam has been here the entire year.”

Newton hasn’t been in Carolina all season, which in part explains why the offense looks so limited. Receiver Robby Anderson said he thinks there too much blame has been placed on Newton.

“Everybody expects him to come in and save the day, which he is trying to do,” Anderson said. “But it’s not all just about him.”

Anderson acknowledged how difficult Newton’s circumstances have been, adding that any other quarterback from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, would struggle without training camp, too. Newton talks a lot about winning because he cares about Charlotte and the Carolinas.

He wanted to win for the Panthers fan base and his teammates. But those wins haven’t come. He’s 0-4 since shouting “I’m back” in Arizona and 0-12 in his past 12 starts.

Unless the Panthers re-sign Newton to a team-friendly deal this offseason, Sunday will be Newton’s final game at Bank America Stadium.

Despite all the history, he wasn’t interested in the possibility of his career soon ending.

“I’m not worried about possibly. I’m just worried about the next game, which is the most important game to me because it’s the next game. And that’s important because we need to win. And that’s it,” he said. “I’m not worried. worried about possibly this possibly that. I’m focused on winning. And that’s the only thing that matters to me.”

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