CHARLOTTE – For the first time in more than two months, Cam Newton found himself surrounded by cheering fans. But the Panthers quarterback wasn't throwing touchdowns in Bank of America Stadium.
Newton on Monday night hosted the 8th Annual Cam's Thanksgiving Jam, where he treated over 1,300 underprivileged children and their families to an all-out feast. But Newton also needed the night.
Stuck on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury, Newton has found himself missing more than just deep balls and first downs. He's missed the thousands who have watched him play every fall.
"I was in a place where I wasn't used to being," Newton said. "Being in the position I am, being away from the game and missing the support and the on-field interactions with fans, when you finally do come out to a showing like this and it's the first time in about eight to nine weeks, that's what you miss the most.
"Just interacting with fans, that's the part that you miss the most going through the rehabilitation process. At the same time, you know you're affecting lives and doing it for a great cause."
That much was clear from the moment Newton arrived. As he welcomed the children and their families, Newton thanked them for "helping me fix my issue." Fans can't heal a foot sprain, but they can lift an injured quarterback's spirits.
"It's just been a long process," Newton said. "It's been a trying year for me in multiple ways than one, but at the end of the day, being around this type of atmosphere helps you, and it would help anyone."
Whether he was serving stuffing in the buffet line or posing for a never-ending number of selfies, Newton was in the thick of things. He's no longer on the field this fall, but Monday night, he was where he belonged.
"You know a team that you're a part of is equipped with everything except for your presence, so to speak," Newton said when asked how hard the past two months have been.
"But at the same time, me being in the position that I am, me having the impact and me having the pinnacle that I do have, I think it's extremely important to remove my ego, so to speak, and just to put the team first, and also put others first just like tonight."
View photos from Cam's Thanksgiving Jam from TopGolf in Charlotte where Newton and his foundation served meals to a record number of local children and families.