Ron Rivera had a front-row seat to watching Cam Newton ascend from a No. 1 overall pick to a league MVP on the doorstep of winning a Super Bowl during their tenure in Carolina together. The former Panthers head coach worked alongside Newton since he came into the league beginning in 2011 and went all the way through 2019 prior to Rivera being fired by the franchise in the midst of last year's campaign. In that time, the two grew close, and had it not been for Dwayne Haskins being the future under center for Rivera's new Redskins squad, it wouldn't have come as a shock to see him bring Newton to Washington as his QB.
Instead, Newton is heading to New England after the Patriots inked the 31-year-old to a one-year contract that is largely incentive-based. The reason why Newton's market was so dry was largely due to the quarterback's health. He's dealt with a shoulder injury in the past and was limited to just two games last season due to a Lisfrac fracture in his foot. Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, another wrinkle was added in Newton actually landing with an NFL club as teams weren't as easily able to work him out at their facility.
"He's headed in the right direction," Rivera told the McNeil & Parkins Show on 670 The Score. "I mean, he's probably about as healthy as it gets from what I've seen on video. I think he's ready to bust out. I really do. I would never bet against the young man, that's for sure."
Newton has displayed his health on social media over the last few months, showing that he's at or near full strength and his former head coach believes he'll be able to return to elite form.
"Don't bet against him," Rivera said. "I really wouldn't. First of all, you got to know who he is and understand what all he's gone through. He's a guy that's always tried to do things, I think, because he's felt the pressure. He felt the pressure of being the No. 1 overall pick. He felt the pressure of having won the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 overall pick. He felt the pressure of being a Black quarterback, with all the stuff that's been heaped on him.
"He's really had to find his way through it, and he's done a great job with it."
Newton comes to New England in hopes of nearing the starting job left by Tom Brady this offseason. He'll be competing with veteran Brian Hoyer and second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but if Newton is indeed back to full health, he's clearly the most talented option the Patriots currently have in-house.