It took all of one play for Cam Newton to make a booming announcement to the football world: "I'm back!"
The former MVP repeated that roar after rushing for a 2-yard touchdown on his first snap of the 2021 season. Newton was back in the end zone the next time he touched the ball, as he threw a touchdown to help the Panthers cruise to a 34-10 win Sunday.
Carolina now sits at 5-5 in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
Newton entered the game during the Panthers' opening possession, which began deep in Cardinals territory following a fumble. On second-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Newton took a direct snap and delivered a stiff arm to Zaven Collins before breaking outside and barreling over Isaiah Simmons for the first-quarter score.
Newton took his helmet off, which drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and yelled "I'm back!" at the stands in into the TV camera.
"I'll put it like this: this time last week, I was eating a bowl of cereal. You feel me? So, I told coach [Matt] Rhule it would never happen again," Newton said. "So, that just puts things into perspective. After going to church, being with my children and really not even watching football; it was just about maximizing the person I need to be and so for that it was just all a rush of emotions. But yet I know a lot of people in the media, the titles of the newspapers, the blogs, they want to make it about me and it's not about me and I keep sayin' this. This was an impeccable team win."
Moments after Newton's first play, Carolian was again at the Arizona 2-yard line thanks to a pair of long Christian McCaffrey runs. Newton re-entered on first-and-goal and rolled to his right before fitting the ball into a tight window to Robby Anderson to give the Panthers a quick 14-0 lead.
Newton finished the game 3 of 4 passing for 8 yards with the aforementioned touchdown and added 14 yards on the ground. He totaled eight snaps, but multiple teammates spoke to the energy he brought to the game Sunday.
"God is real, that's facts, and I'm just a vessel of Him and He's working in on my life. I was teasing some people about what's going on, you can't even make up a lie this good, you know what I'm sayin'?" Newton told FOX Sports' Sara Walsh after the game. " And I'm just happy to be back, I'm just happy to be a contributor to a team that's already good, we're just trying to get over the hump. It's good to be .500 and we got our work cut out for us."
Later asked how much of the Panthers' playbook he knew Sunday, Newton respond "two touchdowns' worth."
The beloved Carolina quarterback rejoined the team Thursday in the wake of Sam Darnold suffering a shoulder injury that forced the incumbent starter to injured reserve. The midweek signing allowed just enough time for Newton to prepare for a small package of plays in Week 10. P.J. Walker got the start for the Panthers.
Matt Rhule declined to say who would start next week against Washington -- where Newton's old coach, Ron Rivera, now patrols the sideline -- but he did say that they brought Newton back "to play," per The Athletic.
"That was fun today," Rhule said, via the team's official website. "Let's let it be fun."
Newton's triumphant return came on the same field in which he made his NFL debut 10 years ago. The then-No. 1 overall pick announced his NFL arrival with 422 passing yards and three TDs.