CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- While the Carolina Panthers say they gave Cam Newton permission to seek a trade on Tuesday, the quarterback says he was forced into the situation.
After the team posted its announcement on social media, Newton responded to a post on Instagram, saying: "Stop with the word play. I never asked for it. There is no dodging this one. I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys. Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this. You forced me into this. Love"
Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who parted ways with the Panthers after nine seasons, responded to Newton's comments on Instagram with one of his own: "Sounds familiar."
The Panthers' announcement comes as sources tell ESPN's Dianna Russini that the team is showing strong interest in free agent Teddy Bridgewater, who had a strong showing filling in for the injured Drew Brees in New Orleans last season.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney issued a statement about Newton.
"One of the distinct pleasures of my career was selecting Cam with the first pick in the 2011 draft," he said. "Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy. We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts."
Panthers owner David Tepper joined Hurney in praising Newton, signaling the end of an era.
David Tepper on Cam's impact in the Carolinas pic.twitter.com/yDuKId6725— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) March 17, 2020
The Panthers are in a rebuilding mode under new coach Matt Rhule. In addition to Olsen, they parted ways with Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner.
The only quarterbacks on Carolina's roster other than Newton are 2019 third-round pick Will Grier and Kyle Allen, who started 12 games last season while Newton dealt with a foot injury. A week ago, the Panthers re-signed Allen, set to become an exclusive-rights free agent, to a one-year deal.
New Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady has worked with Bridgewater, now a free agent, during his two years as an offensive assistant with the Saints.
Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter last season in New Orleans. The former first-round pick of the Vikings has been slowly boosting his stock since a knee injury cost him almost two full seasons.
Newton, who will turn 31 in May, continues to rehab from Lisfranc surgery that was performed in December. His rehab has gone well and a league source told ESPN that he was on track to fully participate in a June minicamp before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NFL to suspend offseason programs.
Newton was the NFL MVP in 2015 when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, a 24-10 loss to Denver. The Panthers have been to the playoffs only once since then, a wild-card loss to the Saints in 2017.
Newton, who holds most of Carolina's career passing records, missed 14 games last season with the Lisfranc injury and the final two games of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury that also required surgery.