The quarterback ran for a touchdown on his first play against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, taking off his helmet and shouting “I’m back!” to the crowd while being mobbed by his teammates.
It got even better for Newton later on, throwing for a touchdown on his second touch of the ball minutes later, giving the traveling team a 14-0 first quarter lead.
All in all, while he wasn’t the starting QB in his return to the team where he had so much success over nine years in Charlotte, Newton proved to be a huge influence in the Panthers’ big 34-10 victory on the road at the Cardinals.
“So that just puts things into perspective. After going to church, being with my children and really not even watching football, it was just about maximizing the person I need to be and so for that it was just all a rush of emotions. But yet I know a lot of people in the media, the titles of the newspapers, the blogs, they want to make it about me and it’s not about me and I keep sayin’ this.
“This was an impeccable team win.”
Newton, a former No. 1 overall pick by the Panthers in 2011, left in 2019. He spent last season at the New England Patriots, starting 15 games before being released in training camp after Mac Jones became the chosen starter.
The 32-year-old has been out of work ever since but received the call from his old team after news broke that Panthers starting quarterback Sam Darnold had suffered an incomplete fracture in his right scapula and would miss multiple weeks of action.
During his nine seasons with the Panthers, he helped the team make the playoffs four times, reaching Super Bowl 50 in 2015.
Although the Super Bowl ended in a heartbreaking defeat to the Denver Broncos, it was comfortably Newton’s best season in the league, with him being voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.
He has totaled 31,698 passing yards, 190 passing touchdowns, 5,398 rushing yards and 70 rushing scores with the Panthers, as well as holding franchise records for quarterback wins (68), passing yards (29,041), passing touchdowns (182) and rushing touchdowns (58).
And despite only featuring very briefly against the Cardinals, Newton provided a huge boost to Carolina.
Combined with superstar running back Christian McCaffrey — who is working his way back from injury — and a strong defense, the Panthers stymied the Cardinals, who were without MVP candidate Kyler Murray and All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The win improves the team’s record to 5-5 for the season as they search for an all-important playoff berth.
After the game, Panthers head coach Rhule said the energy Newton has brought has galvanized the team.
“He’s a total team-guy. He came into my office, and he told me: ‘This is all going to be about winning.’ That’s what it was: winning. I felt like that’s who he was. I’ve seen ‘All or Nothing,’ I’ve watched him on TV, I know that Cam is a competitor. I think the challenge to the rest of our team was: it’s not about one guy, it’s about everybody.
“Anytime you play defense the way we played it today, you have a pretty good chance. Obviously, we’re excited to have Cam here — don’t get me wrong, we’re excited. I kind of knew he would bring that energy, and he did.”