Cam Newton is back in Charlotte, and it's not just to put fans in seats.
The star of the Panthers' last decade is once again in the Panther blue and black, and he said Friday he chose to return to Charlotte for more than just familiarity.
"When you thought about the question, you ask yourself personally, 'What are you looking to in a team?' One of them, not in no particular order, are they a contender?" Newton said. "Two is what's the chances, do you have a realistic opportunity to be so late in the season to compete? No. 3, what's the skill set around, so you can show your talents as well? Check, check, check. It was a no-brainer, and obviously, there was an added dimension where the familiarity here...
"But once again, I get to the point of everybody wants to make it about Cam's back, this, that and the third. It's really not. It's really ... Look, you know why I'm here, and this ain't for no ploy, this ain't for no ticket sales, this ain't for no Cinderella story. It's to win football games, and that's pretty much what's on my heart and that's how I'm going about it."
Newton hasn't enjoyed the sweet taste of success with the Panthers since the 2017 season, back when he was 28 years old and squarely in his prime. Where he stands now remains a question after his most recent season saw him post career-low marks in passing touchdowns and passing yards per game. But Newton seemed to be sharper in his final snaps with the Patriots, taken during a preseason that ended with his release.
Since then, Newton has been out of work. And just as quickly as New England cut him, he's back in action, though Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Friday it's "not very likely" Newton plays Sunday.
At 4-5, the Panthers can't afford to waste much time before the season becomes irreparable. Newton believes he won't have to wait long to help the Panthers.
"There's an old saying, stay ready so you won't have to get ready, and safe to say I've been staying pretty ready," Newton said. "But it's still a process though ... I think my biggest impact that I want to kind of drive and I want to be driven home is accountability. I'm holding myself accountable to make sure that I do anything coach (Matt) Rhule asks of me, as well as coach Joe (Brady). Making sure that if they can trust me being a trusted teammate then I can hold everybody else accountable.
"From P.J. (Walker) to Matt (Barkley) to even Sam (Darnold), for that particular matter; it can easily get confused why and I can see how but I can promise you that my mental going into this type of situation is bring the pride back to Carolina in ways that I know how and others know how too. It's just making sure that we maximize each and every day."
Newton can begin maximizing his initial days by digesting as much of Brady's offense as possible in an attempt to get ready to take the field quickly. With Darnold out at least three weeks after being placed on injured reserve, a quick mental turnaround could see Newton play significant snaps as soon as Week 11. With the 8-1 Cardinals up first, the Panthers will likely need Newton's reinforcement to stay afloat next week.
As for the accountability, Newton has a long history that proves he can be trusted. His physical capability remains a question, but his mindset is undoubtedly positive.
"Without further ado," Newton offered in closing. "I will say something that I've been wanting to say for a long time.