Cam Newton might be the most enigmatic quarterback in the National Football League.
Oh, I’m sure that’s the first time you’ve heard that adjective used to describe Cam. Most of the adjectives used to describe him are generic and uninspiring.
Black. Athletic. Gifted. Fun-loving. Blah blah blah.
We usually don’t go outside of the box with Cam, yet he is as much a complex and conflicted brother as he is a competitive one.
Before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, there was the Cam Newton who proudly declared before Super Bowl 50, “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to.”
Then, after he lost the Super Bowl, Cam went the “All Lives Matter” route:
“It’s not racism. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” he told GQ. And when asked to elaborate on his remark about being an African-American quarterback, he added, “I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that. As a nation.”
There’s the Cam who, in a span of a few weeks, went from “Black Power Fist” Cam to “unfortunate sexist comments” Cam to Silent Cam.
Personally, I like Silent Cam. That Cam has a Marshawn Lynch type of likability. The kind of anti-establishment likability that common folk love. There’s still an elephant in the room, though (no, not Frank Luntz).
Whether Cam is silent or brash, aloof or “woke,” Superman or turnover-prone Tyrone, one thing is certain:
CAM WILL TAKE HITS.
That may seem redundant in a conversation about football. It is a gladiator’s sport. Football is more than a contact sport — it’s a collision sport.
Ever since he’s taken snaps in Charlotte, Cam has been the most hit QB in football.
Last season, he was blitzed by opposing defense at a rate of 40 percent, highest in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He was sacked 36 times and hit a total of 93 times.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Cam has been hit or sacked 922 times since he entered the league in 2011. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is second during that span of time with 615.
Detractors will say that’s because Cam is a dual-threat quarterback, but that’s only part of the story. The other part of that story is that Cam has played behind patchwork, inferior offensive lines for years.
Why haven’t the Panthers invested in offensive line talent, if for no other reason, to protect their franchise QB? (I could ask the same question about Wilson.) Why haven’t the Panthers committed to the two-TE system that yielded 4,000 passing yards in Cam’s rookie campaign and has worked wonders for New England’s Tom Brady?
The truth is, there’s no acceptable excuse. For the Panthers to have such a progressive (and militant) team name, Carolina’s brass is unrepentantly conservative, both literally and politically.
That’s the only logical reason the Panthers continue to surround Cam with subpar offensive linemen, mediocre skill players and a predictable offensive coordinator with a famous surname.
Off the field, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson continues to dig in regarding his opposition of NFL protests, all while assigning a Republican strategist to his star quarterback. Layers upon layers of conservatism.
Sure, there will be moments (and seasons) where Cam makes something out of nothing. A 15-1 mark that led to a Super Bowl run. A thrilling 33-30 win over the defending Super Bowl champs this season.
Still, as long as Panthers management is willing to let Cam take the brunt of the Panthers’ hits on (and off) the field, we will watch a franchise QB lose his prime, and quite possibly, so much more.