April 6 (UPI) -- In his first public comments since releasing Cam Newton last month, Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said it was a "difficult" decision to part ways with the former NFL MVP quarterback.
"You have to make difficult decisions every year, and this was probably one of the most difficult. I mean, I drafted Cam," Hurney said, according to the Panthers' official website. "We all know everything he's brought to the organization, both on and off the field. So it was extremely difficult."
Newton, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, was named the league's MVP in 2015 and guided the Panthers to four playoff appearances in nine seasons. The star signal-caller, however, struggled to remain healthy over the past few seasons, undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries and missing 14 games in 2019 due to a foot injury that also required surgery.
Hurney declined to provide a reason for the team's decision to release Newton.
"In fairness, I'm not getting into the details of our decision-making process," Hurney said. "... We put a lot of time, thought [and] communication into every decision we make, and as soon as we make those decisions, we act on them.
"So as soon as we did, I called Cam's representatives and told them that we were going to start calling teams about seeing if there was trade interest in Cam. I think it came out publicly the next day. When we got to a point where we thought that it didn't seem like we were going to make a trade in the near future, we thought it was in the best interest for everybody to release him."
A day after Newton's release, the Panthers officially signed veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is expected to become the team's next starter.
"He's a very talented quarterback. I've always liked him," Hurney said of Bridgewater. "He's got great feet in the pocket. I think he's got good vision, a quick release. He's got good accuracy.
"I think everybody you talk to, they talked about his leadership skills, and he's got familiarity with [Panthers offensive coordinator] Joe Brady's system since Joe was down there in New Orleans with him. He's certainly a guy who's overcome adversity and has, really if you look at it, he's won everywhere he's been, so we thought he'd be a good fit for us."
Newton, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 29,041 yards, 182 touchdowns and 108 interceptions in 125 career games in Carolina.
Bridgewater, who spent the past two seasons as a backup with the New Orleans Saints, was a Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings in 2015. In 44 career games with the Vikings and Saints, he has completed 65.2 percent of his throws for 7,652 yards, 38 touchdowns and 25 picks.