Rhule: Panthers Won't Rule Out Drafting QB At No. 7

Matt Rhule "absolutely" wants Cam Newton on the roster, but the Panthers are keeping their options open in the NFL Draft

Zach Gelb
February 26, 2020 - 10:09 am
Cam Newton Panthers

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Cam Newton’s future in Carolina has been a popular topic of debate this offseason, but head coach Matt Rhule said he “absolutely” wants Newton on the roster in 2020.

“I just think meeting him and getting to know him and seeing the way that he conducts himself, the way he carries himself, the way he works, the way he prepares – there’s no doubt that he’s trending in the right direction towards getting healthy,” Rhule said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I’m excited about him. I’m excited about all the things that he can do. I really respect who he is and the way he does things. I’m excited about it. Obviously we have to get him healthy first, but I think that’s moving in a good direction.”

Health has been a major issue for Newton, who played in just two games last year after injuring his foot in the preseason. He had surgery in December, this after having shoulder surgery in March 2017 and January 2019.

“I think there’s no doubt about the player he is when healthy,” Rhule said. “When he’s been 100 percent, or close to 100 percent, he’s been a really, really good player. He, like a lot of other quarterbacks, has hit that point where he’s got to get himself healthy. I think being out for the foot has allowed his shoulder to heal. It’ll just come down to how his body continues to respond to the rehab and continues to respond to all the things that he’s putting in place to get himself there. I’m really positive about that.”

Newton, who turns 31 in May, is in the final year of his contract and is an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Will he be Carolina’s quarterback long-term, or are the Panthers taking a wait-and-see approach?

“I never really think about things like that in that regard,” Rhule said. “I’m just such a right-now kind of guy. Really for all the players, it’ll be my first time coaching them. It’ll be their first time playing for me. They might like it; they might not. I haven’t even met all the guys on the roster yet. I think for all the guys, whether it’s Cam or whoever else, we’re just going to go in there and start the process, start the offseason program, start the minicamps and really start coaching guys. I think that will all work itself out. Guys will get a feel for us, we’ll get a feel for the players on the team and hopefully move forward as one team into the season.”

Rhule was asked if the Panthers would consider taking a quarterback with the seventh pick in the NFL Draft.

“I would never rule anything out,” he said. “I just think it’s so early in the process right now for us to start saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this.’ . . . My greatest fear and excitement is you’re sitting there at 7 and a player that you didn’t think – whoever it is – comes to you, you better have done the work on every single player. That’s why my GM, Marty Hurney, has been so good for me. He’s done this for so many years. We’re going to really, really follow the process we have in place. When we get to 7, we’ll look at it. If anyone calls us about trading up, trading back – anything – we’ll always look at all those things, whether they’re likely or unlikely.”