Panthers owner David Tepper has been around Newton for two years now, and he took the same approach when asked about the status of the former MVP, who is entering the final year of his contract and coming off foot surgery.
With all the good feelings flowing from Rhule’s press conference/pep rally, there was much discussion of process, and how it might take years for Rhule to build the Panthers to the level Tepper saw when he invoked Chuck Noll and the Steelers.
Asked specifically how that long-range planning meshed with the short-term nature of Newton’s situation, Tepper answered indirectly as well.
“Every player that buys into this, the more they buy into this, the more things can work,” Tepper said. “And that’s what we’re going to need here, is buy-in from people, OK? If we can get that kind of buy in sooner rather than later, no matter what the personnel is, . . .
“We will try to use our personnel to the best possible [advantage], whoever that personnel is.”
When that was followed up by another specific question about how Newton might or might not fit into Rhule’s vision for the Panthers, Tepper replied: “The vision is to get the best out of everybody who’s on this team. We all share that vision.”
That’s certainly not going to dampen the speculation that the 30-year-old quarterback might be available to others this offseason.
As they embark on a new chapter, they’d be remiss not to consider all their options, and if another team valued Newton enough to surrender assets, they’d be wrong to not consider how that would help a rebuild. They’d also be wrong to not consider how a player of his caliber, who still isn’t old, could help them achieve their new vision more rapidly.
The only honest answer now is that they don’t know — how his foot will be this year, how the looming contract situation affects him and them, or whether they’re a long-term fit.
But as they begin finding out, Tepper’s words create a clear impression that nothing is certain right now.