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While plenty of quarterbacks have found new jobs this offseason, Cam Newton is the odd man out. With the initial flurry of free agency and the 2020 NFL draft in the rearview mirror, it looks like the signal-caller won’t be landing a massive contract anytime soon. Injuries obviously play a large part in that unfortunate reality, but there may be something else to blame.

Running back Mike Tolbert spent four years in Carolina, suiting up for the Panthers from 2012 through 2016. If he’s to be believed, the organization may have to shoulder some of the blame for ruining Cam Netwon’s career.

Cam Newton’s injury issues have left him without a job

In the modern NFL, almost every team could use a dynamic quarterback capable of making something happen with either his arm or his legs. While Cam Newton should be the perfect player to fill that role, he’s been hamstrung by a series of unfortunate injuries.

For all of Newton’s potential, one injury seemed to be the turning point of his career. At the tail end of 2016, the quarterback tore his rotator cuff. While he managed to return in time for the following season he didn’t seem to be at his best, and things seemed to go downhill after that.

In 2018, Newton’s season ended early as he had to have a follow-up surgery on his throwing shoulder. While that issue appeared to be straightened out for the 2019 campaign, another problem would arise. In Week 2, the quarterback suffered a mysterious foot injury; it was later revealed to be a Lisfranc fracture, eventually costing Cam the rest of the year.

Since then, however, things have gone from bad to worse. With the Panthers cleaning house, Newton was deemed surplus to requirements. He tried seeking a trade but couldn’t find any takers; he was subsequently released, but still hasn’t been able to land a new job.

Mike Tolbert calls out the Carolina Panthers organization

In a recent poll of seven Carolina Panthers alumni, Joseph Person of The Athletic asked if the organization “[erred] by waiting to release Newton fairly late in free agency.” While running back Mike Tolbert asserted that they did, his issues with the club didn’t end there.

“Yes. They’ve been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me,” he explained. “It goes back to his shoulder surgery. Everyone knew his shoulder was messed up in the middle of the year two years ago. But they wait until offseason gets ready to start to have shoulder surgery. Makes no sense. Timing’s off.”

Tolbert also believes that the Panthers mismanaged Newton’s most recent injury, which is one of the driving forces behind his current unemployment.

“As soon as he got hurt (last) preseason against the Patriots, they were saying, “Oh, he’s got a high ankle sprain,” Tolbert continued. “I looked at it on film carefully. It’s not a high ankle sprain, you could tell that 10 minutes after the play. You knew it’s a mid-foot sprain, Lisfranc, something like that. But you wait ‘til December for him to beg you to have surgery. He shouldn’t have been out there Week 1 and 2. He shouldn’t have been out there probably ‘til Week 4 or 5, at minimum.”

Did the Carolina Panthers ruin Cam Newton’s NFL career?

According to Spotrac, Cam Netwon’s estimated market value is approximately $15 million per season. While that, juxtaposed with his current unemployment, seems to point the finger at the Carolina Panthers to some extent, very few things are cut and dry.

In regards to the Panthers organization, it’s tough to know exactly how much blame to assign. From an outside perspective, Tolbert does seem to have a point; if nothing else, they didn’t seem to be the most cautious with Cam Netwon’s injuries. With that being said, though, it’s tough to fully judge their actions without knowing the logic behind their decisions. Releasing Newton at the end of March, however, probably didn’t do him any favors.

At the same time, though, it’s a bit reductionist to cast them as the sole architects of Netwon’s decline. Even if we ignore the injuries—and it’s possible that the quarterback is simply unlucky or injury-prone, regardless of mismanagement—Cam hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory. He has had issues with interceptions and his off-field attitude in the pat; while those might not have been deal-breakers, they could have caused teams to think twice about handing him the keys to the franchise, regardless of when he was released.

In reality, Cam Netwon’s current situation is probably a combination of several factors ranging from his injuries to his potential unwillingness to serve as a backup. No matter who you blame, however, one thing is clear: we’re at a make or break moment in Cam’s NFL career.