Stephen A. Smith explains why Cam Newton's return is more about winning than selling tickets. (2:22)
CHARLOTTE (N.C.) - Cam Newton asked reporters a question Friday as he passed them in a golf car to his first practice with the Carolina Panthers.
"Did ya miss me?" The 32-year old quarterback asked.
Newton smiled with a huge smile and later in his interview, it was obvious that he missed the Panthers. He had spent the last year and a quarter with the New England Patriots after his nine NFL seasons at Carolina.
Newton stated, "Honestly, it's still floating," in his first comment after joining the team on Thursday.
Newton stated that any bitter feelings he might have felt when the Panthers released Newton after the 2019 season were insignificant and that winning is the only thing that matters.
"Was there a disconnect in the past?" Newton stated that it was irrelevant. It's the fact that we can make what might seem like a lot of mistakes or wrongs right that is the most exciting part about it.
"Toss with your feelings. You would only win football games, which would be the greatest wrong and right.
On Thursday, Newton signed a one year deal for up to $10m. This includes $4.5 million guaranteed and $1.5 million roster bonus.
This isn't a ploy. This isn't for ticket sales. Newton stated, "This ain’t for any Cinderella story." It's to win football matches. This is what I feel most strongly about, and it's the way I approach it."
Newton said that the past was past, and this has been clear since Newton began speaking to coach Matt Rhule Tuesday about a possible return to the team that he led to victory in the Super Bowl under former-coach Ron Rivera.
Newton stated, "This wasn’t an apology, it was a retraction, 'Oh, you did us wrong, let’s bring you back.'" "... It's time for victory. It's a huge game. It's a must win. This is where we put all our energy."
Despite losing five of their six previous games, the Panthers (4-5) are still in contention for a wild card playoff spot in NFC going into Sunday's Arizona game.
PJ Walker will be the quarterback, with Sam Darnold, who was acquired in an offseason deal with the New York Jets. Walker had been placed on injured reserve Friday after suffering a shoulder injury. It will take between four and six weeks for his shoulder to heal.
Rhule stated that Newton is in "great shape" and will be making the trip to Arizona. Although he doubts Newton will play Sunday, he noted that his stance could change following Saturday's practice.
Newton would get 10-12 plays at best for the Panthers.
Newton stated that it was mental to believe you can conquer any situation and that you will know when you are actually there. "The old saying is: Keep ready so that you don't have to get prepared. It's safe for me to say that I have been keeping pretty prepared.
Newton stated that accountability and meeting Rhule's and staff's demands is his top priority. The process started Friday when Newton spent the first part of his practice with Sean Ryan, quarterbacks coach, while Joe Brady, offensive coordinator and backup Matt Barkley worked together.
Newton will likely get his first start against the Washington Football Team, coached by Rivera. Rivera made Newton the top pick in the 2011 draft.
Newton's goal for Carolina is to get to the playoffs. This is where they haven't been since Newton led them to an 11-5 record. Newton is more concerned about that than the fan excitement at his return.
Since he returned, he hasn't looked at his phone.
Newton stated, "My head has been so far in a playbook," "I'm aware of the buzz. Follow me and you'll see that I am not on social media. It's not possible for me to follow it. It's not distracting, so it's a good thing.
"I want everyone to know who is a part the Panthers Nation. I get it, but this isn't a parade. Let's get started."
According to the 2015 NFL MVP, the past few months since he was cut by the Patriots have been "therapeutic." He is now a full-time dad and a dedicated workout guru, but has not paid much attention to the news in the league.
He also spent time fasting, and gave a very Biblical explanation for why.
Newton stated that God wanted to teach Moses one thing through the transition: "Just have faith, trust me and trust in me." "I will give you everything your heart desires.
"I felt in many ways why I had that off-time, I felt like Moses."
Newton finished the videoconference with a nearly drop-the microphone moment, before getting up to leave.
Newton stated, "So without further delay." "Keep Pounding" is what I will say.