BOSTON (CBS) — Ron Rivera is entering the first year of his head coaching career without Cam Newton as his starting quarterback.

Hired in 2011 in Carolina, Rivera joined the Panthers at the same time that Newton entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick. The duo rode the usual ups and downs of the NFL together up until 2019, when Newton had a lost season due to a foot injury and Rivera was fired in December.

Now that both men have moved on — with Rivera going to Washington and Newton signing in New England — Rivera expressed confidence that Newton is ready to get back to his proper form.

“Don’t bet against him,” Rivera said on 670 The Score in Chicago. “I really wouldn’t.”

Rivera’s now the head coach in Washington, where the franchise is backing Dwayne Haskins as the QB of the future. That prevented the Redskins from seriously considering Newton in free agency, but Rivera has seen plenty from Cam this offseason to believe he’s on the right track.

“I haven’t talked to him recently, but just based on the stuff that I’ve seen and the people that I’ve talked with, he’s headed in the right direction,” Rivera said. “I mean, he’s probably about as healthy as it gets from what I’ve seen on video. So I think he’s ready to bust out. I really do. I would never bet against the young man, that’s for sure.”

Rivera added: “First of all, you got to know who he is and understand what he’s gone through. And he’s a guy that always tried to do things, I think, because he’s felt the pressure. He’s felt the pressure of being the No. 1 pick. He’s felt the pressure of having won the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 pick. He’s felt the pressure of being a black quarterback, with all the stuff that’s been heaped on him. And he’s really had to find his way through it, and he’s done a great job with it.”


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