CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was known for wearing outrageous outfits to news conferences, but not once did he wear a black and white striped official’s shirt, as his replacement did Thursday.
“I’m here to throw a flag on any questions I don’t want to answer," Teddy Bridgewater said with a big smile.
When pressed for details, Bridgewater quipped, “I just came back from my other job at Foot Locker."
The shirt came at an opportune moment. The Panthers (3-6) committed a season-high 12 penalties for 82 yards in Sunday’s 33-31 loss at Kansas City.
On an earlier Zoom conference, coach Matt Rhule cited the flags as one reason for the setback.
Penalties also were a big reason Carolina (3-6) lost in Week 2 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3), this Sunday's opponent (1 p.m., Fox). The Panthers committed nine penalties for 77 yards in the 31-17 setback. Two penalties on third down by first-round pick Derrick Brown led to first downs. The first led to a touchdown.
Penalties in general have been an issue for the Panthers, who are tied with the winless New York Jets for the fourth-most penalties -- 58 for 455 yards – in the NFL. Twenty-two of those led directly to first downs, tied for seventh-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Carolina is 2-1 when it commits four or fewer penalties and 1-5 when it commits five or more.
Bridgewater insisted the timing of his outfit had nothing to do with trying to emphasize how much penalties hurt Carolina against the defending Super Bowl champions or the Bucs (5-3).
He blew an imaginary whistle and flagged the question suggesting he had an ulterior motive.
“The shirt had nothing to do with that, but we understand [penalties] ... that’s a part of beating ourselves," he said. “If we can eliminate those penalties, negative plays ... then we’ve got a pretty good team."
It should be noted that Bridgewater donned the shirt after Rhule went into a lengthy answer about how penalties have made an impact on the season.
“I just told Joe and others we cannot win and have these pre-snap penalties, guys lining up wrong, we just can’t have it," Rhule said of his conversation that included offensive coordinator Joe Brady. “On defense, I can always live with the aggressiveness. We can’t keep jumping offside."
To be fair, penalties have worked to the Panthers’ advantage as well. They are tied with Tampa Bay for the most first downs via penalty with 25, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Bridgewater might have been joking about Foot Locker, but he did celebrate his 28th birthday on Tuesday at another mall staple: Olive Garden.
“Yeah, I had some bread and salad," Bridgewater said. “I took a little cranberry juice from the facility. That was about it. I don’t like spending my money, so some bread and salad was good for me."