Cam Newton has at the Carolina Panthers this offseason, suggesting his former team not only out of town but then gave up on him by cutting him loose. Now one of Newton's former teammates has joined the party, with retired three-time Pro Bowler Mike Tolbert telling The Athletic on Monday that the Panthers wronged Newton both before and during his departure.
Asked by Joe Person whether the Panthers erred by waiting to release Newton fairly late in free agency rather than give him more time to potentially find a job for the 2020 season, Tolbert put it bluntly: "Yes." And then he went on to criticize the team for more.
"They've been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me," said Tolbert, who spent 2012-2016 with the Panthers. "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. Makes no sense. Timing's off. As soon as he got hurt (last) preseason against the Patriots, they were saying, 'Oh, he's got a high-ankle sprain.' ... But you wait 'til December for him to beg you to have surgery. He shouldn't have been out there Week 1 and 2. He shouldn't have been out there probably 'til Week 4 or 5, at minimum."
Regardless of whether the Panthers did, in fact, misdiagnose Newton's injuries, the quarterback's medical history may very well have prevented him from landing a new home up to this point. With all 32 NFL team facilities shuttered for more than the first two months of free agency amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Newton was unable to arrange any in-person physicals with interested teams despite missing all but two games in 2019 because of a Lisfranc fracture. He's played 16 games just once in the last four years.