After Georgia’s second loss of the season to Florida, Bennett was pulled in favor of Daniels, who started the final four games of the season.
At the time of his decision to opt out, Newman cited concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as to why he wouldn’t play the 2020 season. He reiterated that reason Thursday, which marked the first time he spoke to reporters since announcing his transfer to Georgia last year.
“I got that (question) in all 32 interviews (with NFL teams) -- why did I opt out? It was a collective thing,” Newman said. “COVID hit differently for me and my family. Unfortunately, I had a family member who was affected by COVID. That’s what went into my decision.”
Newman admitted to being a bit rusty in his return to a team environment. Before arriving in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl, Newman spent the season training in Atlanta before recently heading to the EXOS facility in Pensacola, Florida.
Newman said the week has been beneficial to get some coaching from the Carolina Panthers staff on the American team.
“There was definitely some rust, just having to get adjusted to the game,” Newman said. “Obviously, there are some great players, some of the best players in the draft are down here in Mobile. It was a great job getting coached by the Panthers staff. Matt Rhule, I love the way he coaches. He challenges you. He teaches you to be mentally tough and physically tough. It was a great week for me.”
Newman is hopeful this week will help elevate his draft stock. One thing working in Newman’s favor, as well as everyone else at the Senior Bowl, is that this is the only competitive opportunity that NFL coaches and scouts will get this draft season. With the NFL combine canceled along with private visits and workouts being banned, only Pro Days will remain a part of the offseason process. Therefore, those getting scouted in person have a leg up on those who don’t.
Although playing for the Bulldogs didn’t work out amid a once-in-a-century pandemic, Newman said he has maintained many positive relationships from Georgia. This week, Newman has reunited with former Georgia teammates Malik Herring, Ben Cleveland, Mark Webb, DJ Daniel, Tre’ McKitty and Monty Rice.
While select Georgia fans voiced their displeasure about his decision online, Newman said it meant a lot for his former teammates and coaches not to hold his personal decision against him.
“It showed they cared about me more as a person than a player,” Newman said. “That’s why I respect them. I still have love for the Georgia family. I watched every game this season as well as watching Wake. That’s why I still connect with these guys. If you see us out here today we’re still dapping each other up, having fun, smiling. I connect with them just like I did with my Wake guys.”