Former Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera still believes in quarterback Cam Newton, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Patriots on Sunday.
“I would never bet against the young man, that’s for sure,” Rivera said Monday on 670 The Score, a radio station in Chicago.
Rivera, who coached Newton for nine seasons in Carolina, said he hasn’t spoken to the 31-year-old passer recently, but, based on the conversations he’s had with others and the videos he’s seen, he called Newton “about as healthy as it gets.” Newton missed 14 games last season after suffering a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot. He also missed the final two games of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
“He’s headed in the right direction,” Rivera said. “I think he’s ready to bust out.”
The Patriots were reportedly the only team to show serious interest in Newton, which Rivera attributes to the uncertainty surrounding his health. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Newton was unable to work out for any teams after getting released by the Panthers in March.
Rivera, who now coaches the Washington Redskins, said he would “not have had any issues” with pursuing Newton, but the organization opted against it in favor of developing second-year quarterback Dwyane Haskins.
“I would have been very confident and comfortable in going after him and bringing him to be part of what we’re doing here,” Rivera said. “But until we get that opportunity to know what we have, it would have been very hard to bring in a guy who’s had such a solid career, who was league MVP at one time, and expect the young guy to get chances to grow. So, I just felt that, because of our circumstances, we could play this slow.”
Over the course of their nine years together, Rivera and Newton posted a winning record three times — including a 15-1 season in 2015 — and made the playoffs four times. In 2015, they advanced to Super Bowl 50, where they lost, 24-10, to the Denver Broncos.
As for what Rivera thinks about the fit with the Patriots?
He called New England “a great spot” for Newton.
“Don’t bet against him,” Rivera said. “I really wouldn’t. First of all, you got to know who he is and understand what he’s gone through. He’s a guy that’s always tried to do things, I think, because he’s felt the pressure. He felt the pressure of being the No. 1 pick. He felt the pressure of having won the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 pick. He felt the pressure of being a Black quarterback, with all this stuff that’s been heaped on him. He’s really had to find his way through it, and he’s done a great job with it.”
As long as Newton is healthy, Rivera said he has no reason to doubt him.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of success,” Rivera said. “Man, when he was healthy and playing, he’s a dynamic player. I hope he’s healthy. I believe he’s healthy from what I’ve seen. I’m wishing him nothing but the best. I think he really is a heck of a young man.”