It wasn’t a throwback game on NFL Network that we were watching. It wasn’t a flashback of Cam Newton’s greatest moments as a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.
The Dab Master himself was really behind center for the team he played nine seasons with before they unceremoniously released him.
The Panthers, who lost their starting quarterback for the season, gave Newton a call and asked him to return.
Newton, who admits that he got very comfortable with “daddy duties” during his time at home waiting for an NFL team to give him a call, didn’t hesitate to accept coach Matt Rhule’s offer, as a fire and passion for competition still burns inside him, even after a decade of taking big hits and body blows.
PJ Walker started Sunday’s game against the undermanned Arizona Cardinals, but Newton’s return to the place where he became an NFL legend was the talk of the league and the day started and ended in fairy tale fashion.
Following a Colt McCoy fumble and return deep into Arizona Cardinals territory, in came No. 1, who didn’t waste any time reintroducing himself to the Carolina faithful.
With 11:20 left in the first quarter — on second and goal — Cam took the snap and rumbled around the right side, colliding with defenders and ending up in the end zone as we’ve seen him do so many times.
It was his 71st career rushing TD which is more than any other quarterback in NFL history — by a lot.
The great 49ers signal caller Steve Young is second with 43 rushing scores.
His three carries for 14 yards in the Panthers’ 34-10 win also moved Cam closer to Michael Vick, who is first all-time in rushing yards for NFL quarterbacks with 6,109 yards.
After scoring, Cam released months of pent up energy and frustration by screaming, “I’m baaaaaccck, I’m baaacccck, I’m baaaccck.”
— Cam Newton pic.twitter.com/kxkWEnV7LM
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) November 14, 2021
He flashed the million dollar smile that the football world has come to know.
Anybody watching had to get chills, considering the GMs around the league wanted us to believe that there were 32 quarterbacks better than Cam.
The refs, however, didn’t care for the return of Cam’s exuberance and played the party poopers they are known to be.
Instead of reading the room, the referees threw a penalty for unsportmanlike conduct.
Nobody cared. At that moment, Cam was officially in the mix again. The hating refs didn’t stop Cam’s flow.
The next time Newton touched the rock, he threw a TD pass (the 191st of his career) to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
Cam Newton now throws a TD to Robby Anderson.
Cam has come in for 2 plays in the first 6:21 of the game. Both have been TDs. pic.twitter.com/Lh4TGvNMyt
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) November 14, 2021
Before you could blink Carolina was up 20-0 and the impact of Cam Newton’s return reverberated throughout the league.
Cam didn’t want to be the star of the game, but when you shine naturally, no outside forces are ever going to be able to dim your illuminating aura.
Newton wasn’t looking to return to Carolina to try and recapture his MVP form from 2015 when he led Carolina to the Super Bowl.
The man who was once considered the face of the NFL and the most unique quarterback the game has ever seen didn’t have many options.
The Patriots ushered him out of the door after signing Cam to navigate the team through a suicide COVID season, minus Tom Brady and any real weapons needed to actually be successful. They basically brought the future Hall of Famer in to manage a tank job.
There are many who tried to write Cam off, same as they did after the Panthers simply let the greatest player in franchise history go when Rhule rolled in as the new coach.
They thought Sam Arnold, a New York Jets draft bust, would be a better fit to usher in the post-Cam era of Carolina Football.
While Cam’s superior athleticism and his knack for the dramatic may not be as potent as when he was at his peak, the new leadership discounted his overall cultural effect on the organization.
Cam is more than just a quarterback. He’s still the foundation of that franchise. The fans Carolina currently has are holdovers from the golden days of the Cam Newton era, which started in 2011 with a rookie record 4,051 passing yards.
Cam is the only reason why anyone outside the state of North Carolina knows or cares about the Carolina Panthers. You still see his jersey being worn by fans across the globe.
Rhule and the rest of the Panthers’ organization slowly realized this and when Darnold went down with a bad shoulder with the Panthers struggling at 3-5, Rhule reached out to the one guy everyone in the locker room would respect and listen too.
The guy who is a legend in Carolina whose mere presence can inspire and elevate the overall performance of his teammates.
It was also fitting that the only other two players who can come close to matching Cam in star power — Arizona’s QB Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins — were unable to play.
Cam needed the stage to himself. At least for one more Sunday afternoon.