AFC Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Cam Newton, Saints


  • NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero writes that Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich should at the least get head coaching interviews this year after shockingly receiving zero requests last year. 
  • USA Today’s Josina Anderson, citing a source, reports Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (ankle) has a “long way” before returning: “We’ll see. He’s got a long way to go.”


There’s obviously a lot of familiarity for the Panthers and long-time QB Cam Newton in his return to the Carolinas. But a lot has also changed. There’s a new coaching staff to adjust to and a new offensive system to learn. Only 14 players on the current roster were still around the last time Newton suited up for the Panthers in 2019. However, Newton’s leadership style remains consistent.

“He’s still the same Cam I remember, man. Excellent leader. A fun guy. Definitely a football-head, definitely a guy who continues to put the work in,” Panthers CB Donte Jackson said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “Still one of those first-guys-in, last-guys-out (players). He’s still the same leader, the same fun guy that I remember from two years ago. He’s definitely bringing those old vibes back to a different group.”

Newton has always been a high-energy player and a larger-than-life figure. His return has re-ignited interest around the region in a team that has had far more low points than high points the past few years, and it was evident in Carolina’s blowout win of the NFC-leading Cardinals on Sunday. However, Panthers HC Matt Rhule has noticeably tried to redirect attention to the entire team rather than one player. 

“We’re the same people we’ve always been. We’re complementary football people. We believe in a process. We believe in a brand,” Rhule said. “Cam brings energy and brings it all to life. But at the end of the day, energy’s high when you have execution. And it was great that Cam ran that first touchdown in. But it was also great that Haason (Reddick) knocked the ball out and got the sack-fumble.”

For his part, Newton has tried to do his part to fit into Rhule’s program — aside from the taunting penalty he picked up after taking his helmet off to celebrate his first touchdown in his return. 

“The first thing he wanted to do was to just let us know it’s not about him, it’s about us,” Jackson said. “That’s just the leader in him. He came in, he didn’t want any distractions. He just wanted everybody just rolling (and to) help him come along.”

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe says if Newton doesn’t show enough to merit Carolina sticking with him in 2022, the team will pursue a trade for an elite option next offseason. If they strike out, they’ll turn to the draft. 
  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano write the Panthers have not been subtle about their desire for a long-term answer at the position and they’ll be heavily involved with any big names this offseason. Although they already have $18.858 million committed to QB Sam Darnold, Graziano doesn’t get the sense they’re worried about that being an obstacle. 
  • Panthers WR Robby Anderson said Newton is already making an impact in their locker room: “His energy, his personality, his aura it rubs off on everybody. I would say we kind of was like missing that, especially from like the offensive side of that veteran leadership role.”  (Josina Anderson)
  • Panthers C Matt Paradis successfully underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on Thursday and did not suffer damage to any other ligaments. (Tom Pelissero)


  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe expects the Saints to go after an established veteran quarterback in 2022, as their roster, especially on defense, is still good enough to compete if they can address wide receiver. 
  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler says the Saints could give RB Alvin Kamara a second week of rest to ensure his knee isn’t an issue down the stretch like it was in 2019. 
  • Saints HC Sean Payton said that they were “close” to signing Odell Beckham as a free agent and were around “mid-way through the process” when the Rams became involved: “I would say close. The question was all along if L.A. had an opportunity that’s where he was going to go. I would say [Los Angeles wasn’t involved] until mid-way through the process.” (Andrew Perloff)
  • When asked about the NFL’s rules on taunting, Payton believes it is becoming “over-officiated” and that the competition committee did not foresee this season’s issues: “I think it’s being over-officiated. … I don’t think any of us who discussed it [on the competition committee] saw it going where it is now.” (Andrew Perloff)
  • Kamara did not attend Thursday’s practice after being limited the previous day and is considered day-to-day. (Nick Underhill)

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