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Is Newton's past an issue for Panthers?

On a conference call with the national media, ESPN’s Todd McShay was asked how Cam Newton’s off-field issues might impact his draft status.

I think McShay gave an answer that sums up the situation very well.

“That’s the biggest question and issue in the draft right now,’’ McShay said. “I don’t think anyone knows. It’s a matter of diving deeper into his background. …One GM I talked to recently said, “Our team is not in the quarterback hunt right now, but if we were I’d be in this kid’s hip pocket every day between now and the end of the draft’.”

Newton reportedly had some academic issues at the University of Florida and the NCAA is investigating allegations that some rules might have been broken before the quarterback transferred to Auburn. There’s no doubt Newton is a rare physical talent.

But the Carolina Panthers are holding the No. 1 overall pick and could be in the market for a quarterback. Is Newton the answer?

Ever since the Rae Carruth saga in 1999, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson has made it a rule of thumb for the Panthers to steer clear of players with major off-field issues in their backgrounds. Exactly what transpired in Newton’s past is open to debate.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney is very methodical in his background searches. Although the Panthers have a new coaching staff, most of the front office remains in place. Hurney has a team of guys that are well connected to the college ranks and a security director who knows how to open doors and get to the bottom of things.

I’m guessing that Hurney’s staff already is well into the process of looking into Newton’s past.