1.) As of right now, Cam Newton is the Panthers' quarterback in 2020, if healthy
There are obviously a couple of caveats in that statement.
"As of right now" = there are still 201 days until the opening Sunday of the regular season. A lot can happen between now and then, but it appeared the main message about Newton was the Panthers are planning to have him behind center at the start of next season. Rhule wouldn't commit to naming Newton or anyone on the roster "a starter," but the new head coach wasn't vague about his willingness to work with the 2015 NFL MVP.
"I absolutely want Cam here. There's no doubt about that," Rhule said. "We have to make sure we continue to get him healthy, and he's doing a great job of that. I want to make sure I say that. He's going above and beyond in that regard. When healthy, I think there's no doubt about who he is and what he can do, so we just have to get him there."
Which leads to the second caveat.
"If healthy" = that's still the only thing that matters most when it comes to all things Newton. It's what owner Dave Tepper has been saying for months. Rhule only repeated the sentiment.
Which leads to …
2.) The Panthers aren't going to rush Newton back
Newton still isn't medically cleared to return, but even after that happens, don't expect him to see him on the practice fields firing away. The Panthers are going to be very cautious with Newton because they want him at full speed when he comes back. That likely means limited action when players return in early April and limited reps in OTAs. A reasonable goal for increased reps could be minicamp in June, but they're not going to put him on a clear timeline.
"We haven't really seen a healthy Cam for two years. He's one of those guys, he's such a competitor that he's going to go out there, he's going to play, so we need to do our job that we get him healthy," Rhule said. "I really don't care if he's not full speed until September. Now, I'm sure on his end he'll say, 'I'm going to be before there,' but we have to make sure we have a process."
3.) Rhule isn't going to rush anything
There's the word 'process' again. Rhule says it a lot.
"I'm a process-oriented guy, and that just sounds so cliché, I know," he admitted. "My wife says, 'Matt, stop saying the process.'"
But that's who he is. That's what helped him build two college programs. Yeah, the clichéd part of it could make your eyes roll, but it's what a developer does. Screw up one part of the foundation and it becomes that much harder to build something solid. So, sure, everyone wants answers now, but Rhule isn't going to skip steps.
"I'm probably not even thinking (about the) draft enough yet. I'm probably more thinking combine, because from my perspective, I don't want to miss out on a player," Rhule said. "I want to get the very best fit for us, so to me, how do you do that? You're really diligent in the process along the way of the formal interviews, the weigh-ins.
"Especially being my first combine in this role, I want to make sure I do a good job and I'll try not to let anything slip through the cracks."
4.) All options are on the table
Another part of building a team, especially if you want it to have sustained success, is being open-minded to anything.
When asked if he'd consider any player untouchable when it comes to trades, Rhule responded:
"I don't know that I would ever say that. I don't think great teams ever say that. There are could be some highly unlikely people or probably not."
Right, so someone like Christian McCaffrey would fall under the "highly unlikely" category. But if the Panthers are going to get where Rhule wants to go, they can't leave any stones unturned.
"I was teasing earlier, I would trade my son Bryant if it was for the right people," Rhule said with a laugh. "I'm just saying you have to have that mindset, especially early on as a coach."