Football

‘I was my own worst enemy’: Newton says he hid foot injury’s severity from Panthers

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton grimaces in pain after injuring his left foot Aug. 22 against New England in the preseason. The injury made Newton basically unable to run during the Panthers’ first two regular-season games, he said in a video blog posted Friday. But Newton also said he hid the full severity of the injury from his coaches so he could play.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton grimaces in pain after injuring his left foot Aug. 22 against New England in the preseason. The injury made Newton basically unable to run during the Panthers’ first two regular-season games, he said in a video blog posted Friday. But Newton also said he hid the full severity of the injury from his coaches so he could play. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

In a remarkable 15-minute video that he posted Friday to his YouTube channel, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he hid the severity of his foot injury from his Carolina coaches and teammates because he wanted to play in Carolina’s first two games of 2019.

Saying “I was my own worst enemy,” Newton explained in the video why he downplayed the injury to his coaches. He also said he now believes he must sit out until the Lisfranc injury in his left foot is completely healed so he can play like himself once more.

Newton, who will miss his second straight game Sunday when the Panthers play Houston, speculated in the video that the foot injury could take as long as six weeks to heal but didn’t give an exact timetable for when he thought he would return. He also said that he was completely to blame for playing hurt in Carolina’s opening two losses this season to the L.A. Rams and Tampa Bay and that he felt “humbled” by the experiences of the past few weeks.

“I guess that’s what this league kind of does,” Newton said. “You know, it humbles you. And I really, honestly feel like I am being humbled right now.”

Here is the full, 2500-word transcript of Newton’s remarks, which he made while smoking a cigar and taking an occasional sip of wine.

Any words added for editorial clarity are in parentheses or italics.

‘Nobody to blame but me’

The video begins as Newton lights a cigar and then takes a drink of wine. Then he begins to speak.

We ready? So um, OK, so here we go, here we are.

And just for the record, I want to be brutally honest.

I want to be, you know, 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 this is -- I plan on being here in a fashion that I’m comfortable. I don’t want to have to beat to nobody else’s drum except for mine. So here we go.

This is my opportunity to be completely transparent to the viewer, to Panther nation, to the people who follow me, to the people who hate me, because I do understand, especially going through this, there’s a lot of people coming out of the woodwork, voicing their opinions about me.

That’s fine. You have a job to do. This is kind of like a vent session for me as well. And this is nobody to blame but me.

I was dealing with a shoulder injury that was ailing me for a long time. Did a procedure that was just supposed to be a temporary fix. Came back from it. That didn’t work. So got another procedure that was supposed to be the permanent fix. That’s what happened this offseason. So all my attention has been shoulder, shoulder, shoulder.

Fast forward to preseason Game 3. Everybody’s been kind of focusing on like, ‘Cam’s changed his throwing motion. How will that kind of affect, you know, his overall play of the game?’

And it happened. The unthinkable, so to speak – something else got hurt.

‘Oh, I can’t run’

In the video, Newton begins to narrate the highlight of the play where he got hurt against New England on Aug. 22nd, in Week 3 of the preseason, after scrambling and getting sacked.

I think in the back of my mind, ‘It’s preseason. There’s no reason to keep prolonging this scramble.’ So as I was kind of diving forward, that plant step – I kind of felt it but didn’t like know the extent of the injury.

And when I got up I was: ‘Oh, something don’t feel right.’ Right? I said: ‘OK. I got time.’ I knew I wasn’t going to be playing (in the fourth preseason game) so I just spent that whole week with rehab and therapy, rehab and trying to accelerate the whole recovery process and try to get back to 100 percent.

And this is where I got in my own way. Because automatically, I thought, ‘I got to play in Week 1. I can’t let my fans down. I want to be there for my team.’ As Week 1 is preparing, we’re facing the Rams, and I was so self-conscious of my foot. We’re calling certain plays in practice and I’m limping. It’s an obvious limp.

‘Practice? We talkin’ about practice?’ (Newton is quoting an old Allen Iverson rant here). You know what I’m saying? And that was practice. Fast-forward to the first game of the season. I have a ritual that I do, just like the Israelites and you know, walking around Jericho. That’s what I kind of do prior to each and every game. I run around the field, in essence to kind of mark the territory, and to visualize myself making plays.

So Week 1, as I’m about to jog around, I realize: ‘Oh, I can’t run. I can’t.’ I try to jog. I can’t do that. So fast-forward through the game. I feel like I’m in the game but it’s like something -- something’s missing.

‘I was hiding the injury’

I knew things were kind of different when too many people were voicing the same type of concern. It’s like: ‘Man are you all right? Is it your shoulder? We didn’t see Cam’s mark on that game.’

We end up losing the game and I kept thinking to myself, I’m like: ‘I’m not able to play this game like I want to.’ Not only that, but we have a quick week and Thursday night’s game vs. Tampa Bay.

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton holds onto the top of his helmet after being sacked by Tampa Bay linebacker Shaquil Barrett Sept. 12. Newton is 0-8 during his last eight starts as Carolina’s quarterback. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

I’m thinking I’ve got to put my stamp on this game. And I’m thinking to myself: ‘I can’t run. I can’t run.’ It’s one thing to have the ability to run, and not, rather than to have opportunities to run, and you can’t.

I remember scrambling, and I’m limping. You know when I was talking to my brother, he said, ‘Man, you was limping on that play. Man, you just don’t look the same. I’m watching the games and everything’s looking flat. Where’s the energy that you usually play with?’ And I’m saying to myself, ‘Well, it’s hard for me to have energy when I’m hiding something.’ And I was hiding the injury.

I could have easily said, ‘You know what, Coach? I don’t think I’m ready. Maybe I need to consider sitting this one out for the betterment.’ And I told myself, last year before I put myself in jeopardy to hurt the team, I would just kind of remove myself to put this team in a better situation.

Coach came up to me and asked me: ‘Are you all right? Are you able to play?’ You know what I’m saying?

And with that Superman title-tag, I’m like, ‘Nah, coach, I’m good. I’m good. I’m good! Let me play!’

But deep down inside, there’s that voice that you’re hearing: ‘You’re not as good as you think you are but you can keep on getting by.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing, been getting by. And I’m thinking to myself like, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’

‘I was my own worst enemy’

But when you realize my foot is going to heal on its own and it’s not healing at the pace I thought it was going to heal, it’s hard for you to push. It’s hard for you to plant. It’s hard for you to have that firm foundation as a thrower.

So even if somebody’s not close to you, you’re trying to guard your foot. I don’t want nobody to touch it. I don’t want nobody to sack me. So all these things are going on in my head in an actual play.

For so long, I’ve played this game one way, I played this game the only way I know how to play. And at this particular point and time, that No. 1 that’s out there, that hasn’t been that same person.

I guess that’s what this league kind of does. You know, it humbles you. And I really honestly feel like I am being humbled right now.

This is where your faith, this is where your belief, this is where you trust even more. I do trust my teammates. I do trust my training staff. I do trust my coaching staff.

If I’m able to get the time off for me to heal and get back to 100 percent, then I have no doubt in my mind everything that we want as a team can still be accomplished.

I think the thing that put me in so much comfort is knowing that after talking to RV (Ryan Vermillion), our head trainer, as well as Coach (Ron) Rivera and Marty Hurney, the GM, I didn’t feel pressured. It was as if we understand that, we know that you need to get time off. and I think that was so rewarding for me just to hear it, because I was my own worst enemy.

‘Me at 80 percent is not OK’

There was no way in the world I should have put myself in that position, but I needed to see it, if that makes sense? I needed to see that me at 80 percent is not OK. And when I had to really come down to that realization of what my next move should be, it was clear as day. I need to get back to 100 percent.

You know from the fourth-down call (against Tampa Bay, when Christian McCaffrey ran the ball on fourth-and-1 from the Tampa 2 and didn’t get it), whether you may think it was a bad call or not, I felt extremely confident in the call. People are saying, ‘Why didn’t Cam have the ball in his hands?’

And I can honestly say if we had to do a quarterback sneak or I had to do a quarterback run, I don’t know (if he would have scored), you know what I’m saying? Because I would have to push off my foot. And for so long I prided myself to say, ‘Well, I can get one yard. You know 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 either one.

And I think that was the thing that humbled me is like: ‘Cam ain’t the player that he used to be.’ But my answer to that is: ‘Just wait.’

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Cam Newton shared a happy moment in training camp prior to his latest injury with quarterbacks Kyle Allen (left) and Will Grier. Allen will replace Newton for the second game in a row against Houston Sunday. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

‘I owe it to my team and my fans’

This is the ultimate team sport, and I want to be the best player for this team. And right now I cannot be the best player for this team if I’m ailing – an injury that needs time for it to heal.

And I think that’s the thing that I had to come to the realization. I just want to win football games, hell or high water. By running, blocking, throwing, catching, it doesn’t matter, I just want to win.

And the fact that I haven’t won, I think there was a stat that said, in eight games?! (Newton is 0-8 in his last eight starts).

Aw man, I’m about to jump off the edge! But as I get older, I realize that it’s OK to take time off. There’s been quarterbacks for years, there’s been players for years, who has this realization with themselves. Looking at those situations also gave me comfort in not rushing back, you know, because I owe it to myself, I owe it to my family.

And most of all I owe it to my team and my fans for them to trust the product that’s out there. You know: ‘That’s Cam.’ That when it’s in short-yardage situations, that you know what’s about to happen. You can’t stop it. And there’s no way I can physically do that right now in the condition that I’m in right now.

So I’ve decided I will take time away from the game. This is me being a bigger person and being real with myself and saying, ‘Look, what’s the ultimate goal that you’re trying to accomplish?’

Win the Super Bowl. OK, if you want to win the Super Bowl, this is the step you’ve got to go through. It could very well be a week (that Newton is out). Or it could be two weeks. It could be three weeks. It could be four weeks. It could be six weeks.

‘Truth be told, I’m human’

But the thing that I have to understand and know is that if it takes that time, I trust in this team that they will – that we will – still be in a great situation by the time I get back. And I think having that type of comfort, having that type of trust, it has really rejuvenated a lot of things for me.

Because it takes the Superman out of it. I really didn’t want that mantra to kind of be there, because you feel like you’re immortal, you feel like you can’t do no wrong, you feel like this big, bad guy. But truth be told, I’m human -- and I think throughout this whole time I’m realizing that everybody has to be their best self for this team. And until I’m my best self, I will be fine, comfortable, with knowing that there is means to this madness of me sitting out.

I’ve got to be 100 percent. I’m going to be of assistance to anybody, especially for Kyle (Allen), and give everything that I know about this game to them. And I know that they will be coached right, because Scott (Turner, the quarterbacks coach) does a great job, Norv (Turner, the offensive coordinator) does a great job, Coach Rivera does a great job preparing, and knowing it’s just about plug in and play by then.

The excitement is – if we rollin’? Whew! And I’m 100 percent? Whew! That’s really scary. Really scary. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton says his shoulder feels fine. As for his injured foot, though: “I just gotta get right.” In Newton’s last four starts, he has accounted for zero passing and zero rushing touchdowns. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

And for me to make this video of sheer honesty to my fans and to people who are really unsure as to what the extent of the injury is, it’s that in itself. It’s mild Lisfranc. But, for the record, it hasn’t been my shoulder. I don’t want people to think like his shoulder’s still not at 100 percent.

And that’s the thing that’s been extremely frustrating is like OK, I finally do all this work to get back -- and now I’m not playing because of a non-shoulder injury? That’s – whew – I think that’s hard to kind of grip, but we know what kind of sport we play in, you know that you’re going to get hurt.

‘I just gotta get right’

But I just know, I’m making progress, I’m doing every single thing that you know the team asked me to do. And I’m trying to put myself back on that field as soon as possible. But until then, I’m going to be the biggest fan, the biggest support cast, the biggest cheerleader for the Panthers.

I don’t have no type of ill will in my spirit that say I wouldn’t want Lovie – Kyle (Allen, the quarterback who has replaced Newton) – to go out and throw for 500 yards. Throw for five touchdowns. And you say, ‘Well you ain’t thrown no touchdowns all year.’ But it’s not about that. It’s about winning. I don’t play this game for personal statistics. I play this game to win.

And if we’re in a position that we’re clicking as a team, when I do come back, man that’s what I pray for, you know what I’m saying? I can’t stress that enough.

You might ask yourself, ‘Can you play? Right now?’

Yes. I can play right now. But if I were to go out there and play four quarters of football, in the state that I’m in right now, with my foot. It’d be a No.1 out there, but it won’t be the Cam Newton that everybody’s accustomed to seeing. And I refuse for that to happen. Because I’ve done been doing that for two games.

And I said, ‘That’s not acceptable.’ It’s hard for me to watch film, it’s hard for me to go about my everyday life, knowing that I’m being held back by an ailment that all I have to do is just do right by it.

It’s hard to come to grips with that decision or having those options, but at the end of the day, I just gotta get right. I gotta get right. And that’s what I’m going to do.

So just trust and believe that I’m doing any and everything that can kind of speed up this whole healing process, until the day comes where I can get the confidence to run, cut, jump, plant, have that anchor in the pocket that I’m used to. I’m just going to cheer my guys on, man.

This is not a comfortable position to be in, but this is the position that I have to be in, like I said, for the betterment of this team. And I’m fine with that. I’m fine with that.

Newton takes a puff from cigar and a drink of wine and says, “Anything else?” The video ends.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for the Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also is the host of the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth.”
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