CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera didn’t expect to face off against the quarterback he relied on for many years when the NFL announced team schedules in March. But a series of events landed QB Cam Newton back in Carolina just in time for a date with his old coach.
Rivera was the head coach for the Carolina Panthers from 2011 through the 2019 season before accepting a job as the Washington head coach the following season.
Subsequently, Newton was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft to Carolina.
He, too, departed the Panthers in 2019 and signed in the offseason with the New England Patriots after his play declined in the latter years of his tenure in Carolina.
After one season in 2020, Newton then went into a QB competition with No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones ahead of 2021. In a surprise move, Newton was not only surpassed by Jones on the depth chart, but cut prior to the final 53-man roster.
But with a recent indefinite injury to Carolina starting QB Sam Darnold, Carolina made a familiar phone call.
Less than two weeks since rejoining the team, Newton was named the starter by head coach Matt Rhule on Friday.
His first game is against Rivera and the Football Team.
“It’s not just (defending) him, but the weapons around him,” Rivera told ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe pregame. “He has a couple guys he is very familiar with, he (also) has (running back) Christian McCaffrey…as well as (wide receiver) D.J. Moore, but Cam brings a little bit of energy and we have to be able to match.”
Washington matched, and arguably outdid the expected energy last week, upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the Football Team lost defensive end Chase Young in that game to a torn ACL and will be without edge rusher Montez Sweat (broken jaw) again in this game for a third straight week.
“He’s (Newton) going to make plays, he’s a skilled athlete and he’s going to do what he does best,” Rivera said. “Being back here in Charlotte is a little bit special, now the focus is on the opportunity in front of us and we have to do the best we can.”