CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Remember during training camp when Cam Newton didn’t enter the Carolina Panthers’ annual P-I-G mini-basketball tournament, accusing center/commissioner Ryan Kalil of foul play when it comes to the rules?
Newton now is in the tournament.
OK, he bought his way in.
"I got bribed with a undisclosed charity amount to the charity of my choice," Kalil admitted on Wednesday as he stood in front of the official goal and tournament bracket.
How could this happen? I refer you to the rule that disallows players on injured reserve to participate.
A spot in the bracket opened when wide receiver Brenton Bersin went on injured reserve prior to the season opener at San Francisco -- a spot opposite outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who already had played his way into the finals.
Now, Newton doesn’t have a cakewalk to the title he and Davis previously have won. He has to beat defensive end Julius Peppers and outside linebacker Shaq Thompson before getting to Davis, his arch nemesis on the practice field.
Peppers, 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, played basketball at the University of North Carolina. He was on a championship team, so this won’t be a gimme. He admitted on Wednesday that he still can "throw down" on the court.
The problem is getting them to play.
"So of course the two of them, every time I say, ‘Hey, can we play? Can we play?’ ... they say, 'We’ll do it tomorrow,'" Kalil said. “Thomas Davis isn’t too happy about it. He’s getting pretty upset."
But Kalil has a solution that should lessen Davis’ angst.
"The way I think I’m going to play it, I think, if [Newton] does end up being in the finals I’m going to donate it to Thomas’ Defending Dreams Foundation so that maybe it weathers a little bit of his [anger]," Kalil said.
Still, there’s the question of why Newton would want to be in a tournament after questioning the integrity of Kalil when he initially declined to play.
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a conversation between Newton and Kalil that was recounted by the team website during camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina:
"There comes a point in every athlete's career when, Drake says it best, 'The moment I have stopped having fun with it, I'll be done with it,'" Newton said. "We're blindly being led by these fictitious rules that loom over the game. I've been the cash cow for that association for too long."
Kalil admitted at the time that he understood Newton’s frustration over something that happened in last year's championship game. He also said rules were put in place to protect Newton as well as others more athletic than him and some of his fellow offensive linemen.
Hence, the no-dunking-or-jumping rule that apparently Newton protested.
"Some of them are just too athletic," Kalil said. "I don't want to have to go explain to the head coach or GM why somebody sprained an ankle or blew a knee while playing a basketball game in the locker room.
"So I enforce all the rules to protect all the players. Some guys don't see it that way. He felt if he were to hold out, it would really hurt the ratings of the game, which it hasn't. It's gone on, and I would say it's the highest it's ever been now that we've added the social media aspect to it. So it's a little bit of showcasing. The game goes on without him."
Now Kalil says he "made the mistake of letting Cam back into it."
And a tournament normally long over before the second game continues to drag on.
"But it was a lot. It was a lot of money," said Kalil, defending his decision to let Newton play. “He stepped up a lot. For a guy who was dogging the tournament and saying, ‘Who cares? Nobody cares, nobody cares’ ... for him to put up that much money to get back in says he really does care and likes it a lot."