Panthers owner David Tepper on whether Cam Newton will return: 'Is he healthy?'

Cam Newton is optimistic about returning to the Carolina Panthers next season.

David Tepper is taking a more pragmatic approach. The second-year Panthers owner already initiated a house-cleaning in his image, replacing longtime head coach Ron Rivera with NFL head-coaching rookie Matt Rhule.

He’s not playing sentimental with Newton, the team’s quarterback of nine years and the biggest name in franchise history. Tepper reiterated a stance he’s hinted at before but made crystal clear on Tuesday.

‘Is he healthy?’

Newton’s future in Charlotte depends on his health.

“I’m not a doctor,” Tepper told reporters. “I’ve said it a million times. Is he healthy? He’s not a doctor. There’s a lot of different things that could happen.

“But first, is he healthy? Tell me that and then we can talk.”

Tepper’s response arrived after he was pressed to address Newton’s statement during Super Bowl week that he “absolutely” expects to play for the Panthers next season.

Newton ‘inspired’ by meeting with management

Newton said in an interview with CBS Sports Radio that he based his confidence in returning to Carolina on a meeting he had with Tepper and general manager Marty Hurney.

“I left that meeting inspired,” Newton said. “I told them you won’t find another person in that locker room with more to prove — not only to you, but to myself.”

Tepper dodged the direct question about that meeting on Tuesday before delivering his line about Newton’s health.

David Tepper dodged questions about trade talks while emphasizing that Cam Newton's status depends on his health. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Newton’s recent health struggles

Newton, 30, is coming off consecutive seasons that were hampered and cut short by shoulder and foot injuries. He has one year remaining on his contract, but the Panthers would save the bulk of the $21.1 million he’s due against the cap if they trade or release him.

The Panthers hold the No. 7 pick in the draft with quarterbacks like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love as potential options in the top 10 if Carolina does decide to move on.

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