For all of the excitement surrounding Cam Newton going to the New England Patriots, there is an equal, if not greater, wave of opposing energy that loudly debates if he can return to prime form -- ever again. Newton has done all he can over the past several months to surf that wave, releasing a series of conditioning videos that show him in fantastic shape, and fully recovered from the injury that ended his 2019 season after only two games and subsequently required surgery to repair. A former league MVP who once led the Carolina Panthers to the brink of Super Bowl victory, Newton isn't alone in having found himself released after making himself a legend for a franchise.
Kurt Warner can relate, having once taken the [then St. Louis] Rams to the Super Bowl and also winning league MVP for his efforts as leader of "The Greatest Show on Turf" -- achieving both on two separate occasions -- only to find himself stuck in an injury-fueled tailspin thereafter. The eventual Hall of Famer suffered a broken finger in 2002 and played poorly because of it, and again in 2003 after he revealed he played through a broken hand that hadn't healed correctly.
The Rams cut him in 2004, with three years left on his contract, and he'd go on to sign a one-year deal with the New York Giants, but started only nine games before the reins were passed to rookie and first-overall pick Eli Manning. Labeled as washed up and essentially left for dead in the eyes of many, Warner signed a prove-it deal with the Arizona Cardinals and the rest is history -- now enjoying a legacy that views him as a legend for two separate NFL teams.
And he believes Newton could have the same success for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, as Warner himself had in the desert.
"In 2001, I won the NFL MVP award and took the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, achieving both feats for the second time in my three seasons as the team's starting QB. From a football standpoint, I had the world by the tail," Warner said, via NFL.com. "The sky was the limit, and I believed there would be many more similar moments for me in a Rams uniform, but two seasons later, I was cut. Like Cam, I'd been slowed by injuries, but I still believed I had a lot to offer.
"Also like Cam, I was given another chance to show what I had left in the tank."
Newton was forced to sit on the 2020 free agency market for three months while less-talented quarterbacks found jobs, and at more of a, putting a staple in Warner's empathy for the former Panther.
"It is important to note that [the perception of me during my downturn] was not limited to those within the Rams organization, but widely held throughout the NFL," he noted. "If I wanted to play again, I had to convince someone that those last two years were not indicative of who I would be moving forward. I had to find a team out there without a QB who would be willing to give me a shot -- because they had no other real options -- to prove to everyone I could once again play at a high level."
Of course, this all should sound eerily familiar to Newton.
"Cam had a similar challenge this offseason, coming off an injury-ravaged campaign in which he looked like a shell of his former self," Warner continued. "Given another chance by Bill Belichick, will he show his worth between the lines once more? The good news is, I am a walking example that perception is NOT always reality. I was given two more opportunities -- with the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals -- to prove that the overriding perception of me as a player was not accurate.
"I was able to return to form, playing at a Pro Bowl level and reaching the Super Bowl once more. Knowing Cam's track record and the competitor that lies within him, I would not be surprised if he once again rose to the top of the league."
That's a bet the Patriots have placed as well, and if Newton can remain healthy, odds are they'll prove Warner correct; and many others wrong in the process.