Speculation is mounting that Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton’s switch to a vegan diet may be impacting his game and ability to recover from injury, as he announces he is taking ‘time away from the game.’
Newton said in a 15-minute video released on Friday night that he suffered a mid-foot sprain in the third preseason game against the New England Patriots, but that he hid the injury from his own team.
‘It could very well be a week. Or two weeks. It could be three weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be six weeks,’ Newton said of his return in the video, in which he was smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of wine.
‘But I have to understand and know if it takes that time I trust in this team that they will, we will, still be in a great situation by the time I get back.’
Smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of wine, Newton laid out an explanation for his decision to take ‘time away from the game’ in a YouTube video
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton walks off the field following the Panthers 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. He was benched the following week
In his two starts this season, Newton has been lackluster, running the ball just five times for minus-2 yards and throwing zero touchdowns.
In February, Newton switched from a pescatarian diet, which includes fish, to an all-vegan diet that strictly excludes all meat and dairy products.
‘Go back to 2015 Cam, bada** Cam. He was a pescatarian,’ said Chris Howard, a certified nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer. ‘Salmon, shrimp, you get a lot of good fats and complete proteins. In fact, (fish) is one of the best protein sources there is.’
‘Now you take away the most valuable part of that (diet), and … there’s just no way around it: He can’t recover as well with less nutrients, with less calories and with less muscle mass. It’s just not going to happen,’ Howard continued.
Though elite athletes have been known to excel on vegan diets, nutritionists note that getting the right nutrient balance to promote injury recovery can be tricky for inexperienced vegans.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is ‘mostly’ vegan, but admits to eating lean meat during winter months.
Newton also made headlines with his unique post-game interview outfit in Week 2
In his video, Newton did not address speculation about his vegan diet’s impact on his injury recovery.
The three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 NFL MVP did admit that he did not inform head coach Ron Rivera or the team that he was injured — even when he realized warming up before the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams that he was not himself.
‘I was hiding an injury where I could have easily said, ‘You know what, Coach, I don’t think I’m ready. Maybe I need to kind of consider sitting this one out for the betterment [of the team],” Newton said, adding that he told some on the coaching staff that he was fine even after they asked if was healthy.
Reasoning that he stayed silent partially because of his ‘Superman’ persona, Newton said he ‘got in my own way. Because, automatically, I thought, ‘I’ve got to play Week 1. I can’t let my fans down. I’ve got to be there for my team.”
Kyle Allen has replaced Newton in the starting lineup and led Carolina to a 38-20 win over Arizona last Sunday in Week 3.
Allen will start against the Texans for Week 4 on Sunday and is likely to continue as the Panther’s starter for several weeks.
Newton said it ‘rejuvenated’ him when the Panthers benched him in Week 3.
‘It takes the ‘Superman’ out of it,’ Newton said referring to nickname he has become known for. ‘I really didn’t want that mantra to be there. You feel like you’re immortal. You feel you can’t do no wrong. You feel like you’re this big, bad guy but truth be told, I’m human. Through this whole time, I’m realizing this.’
In the season’s first two games, Newton completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 572 yards. In 89 pass attempts, he has not thrown a touchdown pass and has one interception.
Newton has two years remaining on his five-year contract extension. The 30-year-old is owed more than $21 million, including a $2 million option bonus, for the 2020 season.