Sunday is one that Cam Newton says he will always remember. It's the anniversary of an event that changed the course of his life. He experienced defeat in both instances, but that has never stopped Newton from relishing the moment.
Thirteen years to the day Newton was arrested for stealing a laptop while in college, the veteran quarterback made his highly-anticipated return to Carolina. Newton got the start, his first in just his second game since reuniting with the Panthers, but was unable to lead a last-minute scoring drive in a 27-21 loss to Washington.
"Today was a special day for me, for more reasons than one," Newton said. "It was my resurrection day. I'm not sure if a lot of people know. Nov. 21 is a very special day for me. I took a big L in my life. It was a big scar that ended up being my biggest star. I was incarcerated today, when I was at the University of Florida, and this day is always significance of where I came from."
Newton, of course, had been sitting at home just two weeks ago before receiving an unsuspecting call from Panthers coach Matt Rhule about coming back to his old team in the wake of Sam Darnold's shoulder injury. A week after producing touchdowns on his first two touches in a win over the Cardinals, Newton sprinted to midfield following a 24-yard TD run in the first half.
"Was just going to enjoy the moment, still am going to enjoy the moment," he said of the play. "We just, I have to be better."
The former MVP completed 21 of 27 passes for 189 yards and two TDs while rushing for 46 yards. With the Panthers trailing by seven early in the fourth, he dropped a pretty 27-yard pass to Christian McCaffrey between three defenders for the tying score. But with a chance to take the lead, Carolina turned the ball over on downs on its final two drives. The first series ended with McCaffrey hauling in a Newton pass one yard short of the sticks. The last one, and the game, were clinched by Newton taking a sack on fourth-and-3.
"We caught them before Cam really gets into the playbook," said Washington coach Ron Rivera, who got the win in his own return to Carolina. "This is the time to play him. We were fortunate."
Newton did well enough to stay in for the entire game, which was not the original plan. Rhule said earlier in the week he intended to play both Newton and P.J. Walker, but opted to stick with the veteran following his fast start.
"I thought Cam was excellent," Rhule said.
Not bad for his first extended action in 11 months, and for a homecoming that he couldn't have expected.