Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil said Wednesday that he was offered a “’bribe” by quarterback Cam Newton – and admitted that he accepted it.
The bribe in question will come in the form of what Kalil called a “substantial” donation to the charity of Kalil’s choice. In return, the center said, he had decided as commissioner of the Panthers’ P-I-G indoor basketball tournament to allow Newton back into this year’s tournament.
“It was a lot of money,” Kalil said. “Cam has stepped up a lot. So for a guy who was dogging the tournament and who says ‘Nobody cares,’ for him to put up that much money to get back in says he really does care. ... He couldn’t do without it.”
For those who don’t follow every tiny move the Panthers make, good for you. But in case you want to know what’s going on here, let me provide a short explanation.
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P-I-G is a shortened form of the old backyard basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, and the Panthers take it very seriously. They have a 32-player bracket each year, carefully written out on a piece of cardboard and played indoors with a toy basketball and a miniature hoop. Kalil is the commissioner and has the final say on the many controversies in the tournament.
Newton is a previous champion but this year decided not to participate. Kalil, rather than badgering Newton to play, decided to carry on without him.
“He wanted me to beg him to get in,” Kalil chortled last month when we first talked about the tournament, “and I wouldn’t do it.”
But Newton was obviously interested as he kept attending the games. He saw his chance to re-enter when Brenton Bersin was eliminated from the tournament. (It was not for losing, but because the Panthers recently cut ties with Bersin by reaching an injury settlement. The P-I-G tournament is a little bit heartless like that.)
Bersin’s spot had to be filled. After Newton’s bribe, Kalil decreed that it would be taken by either Newton or defensive end Julius Peppers – who was originally in the tournament, but had already been beaten.
“I made the mistake of letting Cam back into it,” Kalil said Wednesday, explaining the delay in crowning the 2017 P-I-G tournament winner. “He’s got to play Pep for Bersin’s spot. So of course the two of them, every time I say, ‘Can we play? Can we play?’ they take turns saying, ‘We’ll do it tomorrow.’”
The winner of the Newton-Peppers tilt will meet linebacker Shaq Thompson in the semifinals. The winner of that will face linebacker Thomas Davis in the final. Davis has already won his side of the bracket and is fuming about having to wait so long to play the championship, Kalil said.
Davis – who has a long-running, trash-talking battle with Newton at most practices – also had been happy that Newton was not in this year’s tournament.
“Yeah, he’s a big cheater,” Davis said, laughing, when we talked about Newton’s P-I-G absence in August. “That’s why we’re happy he’s not in it.”
So Kalil knows that Davis won’t be thrilled with the idea of playing the quarterback in the final – if that happens. The always-thoughtful center does have a plan, though, for that scenario.
Said Kalil: “I got bribed. ... But I think the way I’m going to play it is if Cam does end up being in the finals, I’m going to donate (Newton’s money) to Thomas’s Defending Dreams Foundation. So that may weather (the storm) a little bit.”