Can Cam Newton return to elite form in New England? His head coach of nine NFL seasons is optimistic.
The 31-year-old quarterback reportedly signed a heavily-incentivized, one-year contract with the Patriots on Sunday after the Carolina Panthers released him in March.
The deal gives Newton a chance to re-establish himself after missing all but two games last season due to foot and shoulder injuries. Washington head coach Ron Rivera, who was Carolina's head coach for Newton's entire Panthers tenure from 2011 to 2019, expects the QB to do just that.
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"He's headed in the right direction," Rivera said on Monday on 670 The Score's "McNeil & Parkins Show." "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."
Rivera saw Newton at his peak when the three-time Pro Bowler won the NFL MVP award in 2015 and led Carolina to the Super Bowl. He's also seen the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft face criticism for inconsistent play.
But Rivera believes Newton is stronger for the adversity he's faced throughout his career.
"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 overall pick. He felt the pressure of having won the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 overall pick. He felt the pressure of being a black quarterback, with all the 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."
Newton appears to have a chip on his shoulder as he heads to New England to compete with Jarrett Stidham for Tom Brady's old QB job, and Rivera is one of many who sees that motivation fueling Newton's success in 2020.