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Report: Panthers owner denied Stephon Gilmore's request for Cam Newton's old number

Stephon Gilmore, a Rock Hill native who was traded to the Panthers by New England, asked to wear No. 1. Team owner David Tepper denied his request.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Stephon Gilmore was traded to the Panthers, he asked to wear No. 1, knowing the number's significance in Carolina football history

Gilmore, according to a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, wanted to pay homage to Cam Newton, who made the number famous during his time as Carolina's quarterback. 

Team owner David Tepper denied that request out of respect for everything Newton did for the Panthers. In fact, Tepper had pretty much decided no one was going to wear the number for a while. That lasted a few weeks until Newton returned to Carolina on a one-year deal after another injury to quarterback Sam Darnold. 

Newton was at practice Friday in his familiar No. 1 jersey. His status for Sunday's game against the Cardinals is still undecided. One thing we do know is he won't start at QB, as P.J. Walker will take the field for his first start of the season. 

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Whether Cam plays Sunday or he's held out until next week is just the latest chapter in the Panthers' quest to find another franchise quarterback, even if Newton's eventual replacement is himself. A report from ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday indicated the team knows Darnold won't return this season and Newton could play his way into the starting role next year. 

Darnold's contract situation makes things a little trickier, as the Panthers picked up an $18 million, fully guaranteed option for 2022 after trading for Darnold in the spring. Head coach Matt Rhule has made it clear Darnold is part of the team's future, but his recent play, even before he was injured against the Falcons, led to questions from Panthers fans and NFL pundits about the long-term viability of Darnold in Carolina

The Panthers (4-5) play the Arizona Cardinals (8-1) at 4 p.m. ET. Regardless of the outcome, the rest of Carolina's season got a lot more interesting with the return of Newton, who says it's not about selling tickets, it's about winning. 

"This could be something special but it's always going to come back to winning. That's what it's all about," he said. "That's why I'm here. This wasn't no apology, 'we did you wrong so let's bring you back.'"