Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera sounds confident that quarterback Cam Newton will return to form with the New England Patriots.
Rivera coached the Carolina Panthers for nine seasons with Newton as his starting quarterback before the two parted ways. Rivera was let go after last season as the Panthers veered in a different direction under new owner David Tepper, while Newton was released by Carolina in March before signing an incentive-laded, one-year contract with the Patriots on Sunday.
“He’s headed in the right direction,” Rivera said Monday of Newton’s health on 670 The Score in Chicago. “I mean, he’s probably about as healthy as it gets from what I’ve seen on video. I think he’s ready to bust out.”
Newton will battle Jarrett Stidham for the starting role with the Patriots, who saw Tom Brady join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after 20 seasons in New England.
Newton, 31, had shoulder surgery prior to the 2019 season and spent that offseason overhauling his nutrition and lifestyle choices. But he sustained a foot injury in the third preseason game in August at New England. After attempting to play through the injury, Newton was shut down for the season in September.
Rivera was asked what he’d say to those who believe Newton’s best days are in his rear-view mirror.
“Don’t bet against him,” Rivera said. “I really wouldn’t. First of all, you got to know who he is and understand what all 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.”
In 125 career games (124 starts), Newton has thrown for 29,041 yards with 182 touchdowns and 108 interceptions while compiling a 68-55-1 record. He also has 4,806 career rushing yards with 58 touchdowns.
Like Newton, Stidham finished his college career at Auburn. The Patriots selected him in the fourth round in 2019 and he played in three games as a rookie last season. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 14 yards with no touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his first career drive.
Brady won six Super Bowls with the Patriots, establishing himself as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. He currently sits second to Drew Brees in career passing yards (74,571) and passing touchdowns (541).