Bridgewater also acknowledged understanding how Newton might feel disrespected that Carolina didn’t stick with him coming off a 2019 season in which the former NFL MVP missed the final 14 games due to a Lisfranc injury on his left foot.
That’s because Bridgewater went through a similar situation in Minnesota after his 2016 season ended in training camp because of a horrific knee injury suffered in practice.
That left Bridgewater to spend a brief time with the New York Jets during the 2018 training camp before being traded to the New Orleans Saints, where he was until Carolina gave him a three-year, $63 million deal in March.
“With Cam, it was one of those situations where I understand as a player, you’re a competitor, you want to get back out there and get an opportunity, that opportunity to show that you’re still this elite guy,” Bridgewater said. “He’s done some great things. He’s obviously one of the best players to ever play for this franchise. Everyone around here respects him. They speak highly of him.
“I’m just honored to be following in the position that he left behind, to get the opportunity to resume my career.”
What Bridgewater, 27, didn’t do in his comeback was talk publicly about being disrespected. Newton, signed last month by the New England Patriots to a one-year deal, has been outspoken on social media about how the Panthers “gave up on me.”
The 31-year-old also talked about not being respected and having to prove himself.
“That’s the tough side of this business,” Bridgewater said. “I had the opportunity to experience it early in my career. Injuries are always unfortunate. The way things transpired when I got injured and how I wasn’t able to return to the driver’s seat, I just took it as, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got to put my head down and continue to work. Eventually, there are 31 others teams will have the opportunity to fall in love with me all over again.’ ”
First-year Panthers coach Matt Rhule has maintained respect for everything Newton accomplished at Carolina. He’s said the decision to move on to Bridgewater was because Minnesota’s 2014 first-round pick better fit what he wanted to do.
Bridgewater, a more pinpoint passer than Newton, has been reunited with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who was an offensive assistant with him in New Orleans in 2018.
Bridgewater said the new Carolina offense will incorporate a “high percentage” of what the Saints do with “wrinkles” from Brady after helping LSU win the college football championship last season as the school’s pass game coordinator.
Rhule said last week Brady and Bridgewater, because of their past together, already have been able to talk productively despite only having a virtual offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bridgewater was able to put some of his knowledge to use with wide receiver DJ Moore and other teammates last week when they worked out at a local high school while waiting to be cleared from corona testing.
Bridgewater, who went 5-0 last season for the Saints while Drew Brees rehabbed a hand injury, said this already feels like his team.
“They made this transition smooth, and told me from the jump this is your team,” Bridgewater said of Rhule and team owner David Tepper. “Just being around the guys a couple of days already, they’re feeding off my energy and I’m feeding off theirs.”