Cam Newton’s ex-teammate slams Panthers: ‘They’ve been doing him wrong’

One of Cam Newton’s former teammates thinks that the Panthers sabotaged the Heisman Trophy-winner by forcing him to return too soon after injuries and dragging their feet to release him this offseason.

“They’ve been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me,” three-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert told The Athletic on Monday.

Tolbert, 34, began his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers in 2008 as an undrafted free agent from Coastal Carolina. He played for the Panthers from 2012 to 2016 and the Bills in 2017 before retiring.

“It goes back to his shoulder surgery,” he said. “Everyone knew his shoulder was messed up in the middle of the year two years ago. But they wait until offseason gets ready to start to have shoulder surgery. Makes no sense. Timing’s off.”

Newton, 31, has been plagued by injuries since the Panthers’ Super Bowl run in 2015, in which he won MVP honors. He struggled during the 2016 season and underwent rotator cuff surgery on his throwing shoulder the following March. The injury has lingered for years since.

“As soon as he got hurt (last) preseason against the Patriots, they were saying, ‘Oh, he’s got a high-ankle sprain,’” Tolbert said. “But you wait ’til December for him to beg you to have surgery. He shouldn’t have been out there Week 1 and 2. He shouldn’t have been out there probably ’til Week 4 or 5, at minimum.”

Newton played in the first two games of the 2019 season after his preseason injury and completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 572 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and two fumbles. It was later revealed that he had suffered a Lisfranc injury and was placed on injured reserve.

On March 17, the Panthers granted the quarterback the option to seek a trade, which began an ugly divorce with the former 2011 No. 1 overall pick.

“Stop with the word play!! I never asked for it!!” Newton wrote on Instagram. “There is no dodging this one; … Please do not try to play me, or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this; you forced me into this!!”

Newton was released on March 24 following the signing of Teddy Bridgewater and the team incurs a meager $2 million 2020 cap hit.

“[The Panthers] gave up on me,” he said after his release.

Newton remains unsigned with no vacant starting roles left after the free-agency frenzy. With teams unable to evaluate his recovery and health status in light of the coronavirus pandemic, his outlook for finding a new team in the immediate future is bleak.

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