Through two games this season, Cam Newton looks like a sad broken shell of himself. The Carolina Panthers once-unstoppable force of a quarterback, the man who used to rifle the ball into tight windows and catapult himself up and over entire defenses and into the end zone, has gone from “Superman” to a guy who can’t run and can’t throw in no time at all. It is difficult and sad to watch. And his fall from being one of the top players in the sport to an ineffective one has happened incredibly quickly.
Cam Newton entered the league as a First Round Draft pick in 2011 as an athletic marvel, the head of the class of a new breed of quarterbacks with big-time arms and a ground game to match. And unlike other fleet-footed signal callers, at 6′ 5” and 250 lbs, Newton was a bruiser.
The image that probably comes to the minds of most fans when you say the words “Cam Newton” are those Goal and short to go plays where he would pound it into the end-zone, either running through people or leaping over them. In the end-zone, that million-dollar smile would creep across his face as he pantomimed peeling open his shirt to reveal the “Superman” S on his chest. He put the Panthers on his broad back repeatedly, seemingly effortlessly, smiling broadly, and with grace. And every Sunday he took a brutal pounding.
Two seasons ago, Newton continued his dynamic play, leading the Panthers back into the Playoffs. But in the middle of last season, he succumbed to a shoulder injury.
Coming into 2019, he was coming off of off-season shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and a pre-season foot injury that had him gimpy. So far, it has been hard to watch.
- He has routinely bounced throws yards shy of receivers, or misses his mark high or outside.
- He no longer runs or even looks to run.
- The meme-makers over at NFL Memes on Instagram are having a field day mocking him for not being able to hit the broad side of a barn.
- His fantasy football owners are sitting at home on their couches railing about how much “he sucks.”
He doesn’t “suck.” He’s not messing up. Or just playing poorly for some mysterious reason. He’s quite clearly badly injured. This athletic marvel of a man, a unique double-threat who could throw harder and run faster than anyone can now do neither.
As Dom Cosentino at Deadspin noted in his recent article, ‘What’s Wrong With Cam Newton?’:
Newton…has…endured a great deal of punishment. Now 30 years old—still relatively young in an era in which many other QBs are playing effectively into their late 30s and even 40s, in part by not getting hit so much—Newton had shoulder surgery in January for the second time in less than two years. He’s also had ankle surgery, broken ribs, and multiple head injuries. He fractured two vertebrae in his back during a 2014 car crash. And he’s just three weeks removed from having sprained the middle of his left foot.
It’s hard to remember Andrew Luck and his reasons for retiring without wondering about Newton, too.
This game destroys people so fast. The amazing thing is, it doesn’t really seem to bother people. It’s been completely normalized and accepted.
When we talk about the disposability of men and the game of football, we often talk about brain injuries, CTE, and concussions and the cumulative effect of those on retired players and their families. And while we’ve seen some changes in the youth game and some acceptance that playing tackle football is just too dangerous, that remains a tough issue and conversation in a country where the NFL, as they said in the movie Concussion, “owns a day of the week.”
But we don’t need to even look at CTE and brain injuries to see how this game ravages those who play it. We just need to look at Cam Newton.
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