Rivera: Newton 'surprised' by WR moves

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
8:30
AM ET
Veteran wide receiver Donte' Stallworth made the following comment on Twitter after the Carolina Panthers cut Steve Smith and lost their next three wide receivers in free agency:



Many of you were asking the same question. So was I. Some wondered whether the quarterback's relationship with Smith had anything to do with Carolina's decision to cut their all-time leading receiver. So did I.

I haven't talked to Newton, but Carolina coach Ron Rivera filled in a few blanks this past week at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla.

First, Newton wasn't consulted on the decision to release Smith. He also wasn't consulted on whether the Panthers should try to re-sign Brandon LaFell (Patriots), Ted Ginn Jr. (Cardinals) or Domenik Hixon (Bears).

Newton was in the Caribbean when everything transpired and had no idea any of the transactions had occurred until he returned to Charlotte to have an MRI on his left ankle, which led to surgery that will force him to miss the next four months.

His reaction?

"Surprised," Rivera said.

What quarterback wouldn't be after losing his top four targets? It's also no surprise that the Panthers didn't consult Newton. Players seldom are.

"Cam had nothing to do with what we did, whether it be Steve or any of our other guys that left or any of the guys that we saw," Rivera said. "Cam understands what we're doing, he knows what we're doing, but he didn't know what we did until he came into town to get his ankle looked at."

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
AP Photo/Alan DiazCam Newton had no idea about the Panthers' movements at wide receiver until he came in to have an MRI on his ankle.
As for speculation that Newton's relationship with Smith led to the release, Rivera made it clear it wasn't.

"It's all speculation," he said. "People are going to write, think and say what they think and don't know. But that had nothing to do with what we did. What we did was all about football."

After Stallworth's tweet, the Panthers signed Pittsburgh free-agent receiver Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood from Tampa Bay. Stallworth hasn't tweeted his thoughts on those moves.

Rivera's thoughts are that Carolina got two of the players they targeted, a veteran in Cotchery who can work with the young receivers and an up-and-comer in Underwood whom offensive coordinator Mike Shula is high on.

Rivera acknowledges the Panthers may not have a true No. 1 receiver. He also reminded that Carolina isn't the only team without a bona fide No. 1. Seattle won the Super Bowl with a relatively average group of wide receivers.

"I don't think you need a true No. 1 that needs to do everything," Rivera said. "I don't think you need to have a guy like Detroit's Calvin Johnson. You don't need to have that. You need to have a guy that is going to account for, if there are 10 catches in a game for your wide receiver, he gets six of them."

Maybe one day soon we'll hear directly from Newton on everything that has transpired, including his surgery.

Maybe Stallworth will tweet about that, too.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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