Cam Newton to meet with Carolina Panthers about possible return, sources say

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Quarterback Cam Newton will meet with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday about a possible return to the team that he helped reach the Super Bowl in 2015, sources confirmed to ESPN.

The Panthers, who selected Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, released him following the 2019 season after he'd struggled for several years with shoulder and foot injuries. They began a new regime with coach Matt Rhule at that time.

Newton's meeting with the Panthers was first reported by The Charlotte Observer.

The 2015 NFL MVP signed with New England and started 15 games for the Patriots last season before being released in training camp after the team decided to go with rookie Mac Jones as the starter.

Newton missed three practices before the season thanks to what the Patriots called a COVID-19 protocol "misunderstanding," but Bill Belichick said the quarterback's vaccination status didn't factor into the decision to release him.

The 32-year-old Newton, in a video published to his YouTube channel last month, said he's been vaccinated and wants to continue playing.

"Hell yeah, I still want to play football," Newton said in the video. "I still get that urge to go out and perform and do something that I've been doing since I was 7 years old."

Newton last played for Carolina in the second game of the 2019 season before being sidelined with a Lisfranc injury suffered in the third preseason game.

In nine seasons with Carolina, Newton passed for 29,041 yards and 182 touchdowns, and rushed for 4,806 yards and 58 touchdowns. He threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more during his MVP season.

The Panthers (4-5) began searching for options at quarterback after starter Sam Darnold suffered a shoulder injury Sunday that will sideline him four to six weeks.

Rhule said the team was considering any and all options, but he wouldn't get into "hypotheticals'' when asked specifically about Newton.

P.J. Walker is set to start Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals (8-1).

Newton's first NFL touchdown came at Arizona in 2011. He threw for 427 yard and two touchdowns in a 28-21 loss.