Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has played a lot of football since signing his $103 million extension last month -- some of it with the Panthers.
Two weeks after practicing with an Australian Rules Football team during a Gatorade athlete exchange program, Newton made a cameo appearance during a flag football tournament Saturday outside Atlanta.
Several photos surfaced on social media over the weekend showing Newton lined up at wide receiver wearing belted flags and a Gatorade towel over his head. In an Instagram video, Newton runs a 10-yard out route, catches a pass and goes out of bounds.
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The Panthers have not had a good history with players jumping into the fray at flag football games (see Steve Smith’s broken arm during a 2010 flag game in Charlotte).
But one of the players whose team Newton joined Saturday said Newton acted more as a coach and supporter during the Fallen Warriors Invitational, a two-day, 8-versus-8 tournament in Stockbridge, not far from Newton’s south Atlanta hometown.
Franklin Terry, a member of the Greensboro-based AthElites, estimated Newton played a total of four or five snaps and was running less than full speed after approaching Terry and his teammates and asking if he could join them.
“He definitely was not going hard,” Terry said Sunday night while driving back from Atlanta. “He played on the outside with a towel over his head.”
“Nobody even saw him crank a gear,” Terry added. “I wanted to see him run. It was 94 degrees, and he didn’t even break a sweat.”
A clause in NFL contracts prohibits players from playing football other than for the team without prior written consent from the club. Players also can’t “engage in any other activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”
But in Terry’s view, the Panthers’ franchise quarterback did not put himself at risk.
“He probably got one ball thrown to him. And then the rest of the time, he was calling the plays in the huddle. That is exactly how I could relate it to – a Pop Warner coach calling plays and standing on the field,” Terry said.
“This is a contact league,” Terry said. “He would not be that stupid.”
Terry said Newton made a lot of friends Saturday, buying Slushies for everyone, posing for pictures and having a good time.
“I’m a Cowboy fan and I was like, ‘I can never root against you in my life,’” said Terry, whose team went on to win the tournament Sunday without Newton. “It was one of the best moments of flag we’ve all had. We were all ecstatic just to have him representing our team.”