“Listen. I’m not a doctor,” Tepper said on Tuesday. “I’ve said it a million times, is he healthy? He’s not a doctor. There’s a lot of different things that can happen. Is he healthy? And then we can talk.”
Newton had Lisfranc surgery on his left foot in early December. The team, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, wants to work the 2015 NFL MVP out in March to see where he is with his rehabilitation.
Newton, 30, was adamant in several radio interviews before the Kansas City Chiefs defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV that he had “no worries” that he would be back at Carolina. He said he was inspired by his conversations with Tepper and new coach Matt Rhule.
However, Tepper has not publicly said Newton would play this season for the Panthers. He stayed on point Tuesday after his foundation, along with the John M. Belk Endowment and Carolina Panthers Charities, donated $120,000 to go toward new school supplies for 17 Title 1 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
“Look, I’ve said again and again about it, it’s a question of how healthy he is,” Tepper said. “That’s still the No. 1 overwhelming thing, to see how healthy he is and to figure out when he’s healthy or not. Everything comes from that.”
Tepper was asked if any teams have shown interest in trading for Newton. Understanding that would be tampering, he cracked a joke about his wife answering phone calls before saying “I haven’t heard about that.”
Newton originally suffered the injury during the third preseason game and then aggravated it in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay. He didn’t play the final 14 games, ultimately going on injured reserve before having what was described as “successful” surgery by Dr. Martin O’Malley.
During that time, coach Ron Rivera was fired and eventually replaced by Rhule, the former Baylor coach.
“Through my vantage point, I know I want to be in Charlotte,” Newton said during an ESPN radio interview in Miami. “I know I want to stay in Charlotte. Everything else in pretty much in my own destiny.
“And I’m in the position right now where I told even Coach [Rhule] that you won’t find nobody that’s more dedicated and probably more hungry than myself to not only prove to him and the fans but to prove to myself … that I’m still capable of playing this game of football at a high level.”