Brian Allee-Walsh

Cam Newton received a gift from the Saints after the 2017 season. It stays in his locker.

An unopened package from an anonymous address hangs in Cam Newton’s locker, serving as a constant reminder of his team’s 0-3 record against the New Orleans Saints in 2017.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback has not talked openly about the “gift’‘ delivered to Bank of America Stadium until this week, on the eve of the first of two meetings against the playoff-bound Saints (11-2) over the final three games of the regular season.

It remains wrapped in its original packaging. But, truth be told, Newton doesn’t need to open the “gift’‘ to know what it is.

If it looks like a broom and sweeps like a broom, it must be a broom.

It symbolizes the Saints unprecedented three-game in-season sweep of the Panthers, the third loss coming in the wildcard round of the NFC playoffs at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, 31-26.

Afterward, current Saints and former Panthers players Ted Ginn Jr. and A.J. Klein broke out a broom in the jubilant locker room to commemorate hockey’s version of the hat trick and horse racing’s version of the trifecta. A videotape captured Saints Coach Sean Payton doing a giddy two-step with the broom.

“I have a constant reminder each and every day (of last season) when I look in my locker,’‘ Newton told reporters. “Can’t wait.

“I don’t like them.’‘

For the record, no one knows who gifted Newton, though common sense suggests it came from a person or a group of people (read: Saints players or Who Dat Nation) who relished the idea of twisting the knife in Newton’s back.

Whether or not the broom came from someone inside or outside the Saints organization is irrelevant. Newton, his teammates, the Panthers’ coaching staff, the Panthers’ organization and their fans won’t be convinced otherwise.

OK, let’s cut to the chase.

The free-falling Panthers are spiraling out of control, on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention after plummeting from 6-2 to 6-7 going into Monday night’s game at Bank of America Stadium (7:15 p.m., ESPN).

I suspect it will take more than Newton and his teammates feeling disrespected to upset the road-favored Saints (minus 6) on a national stage.

Newton is playing with a bum throwing shoulder. His go-to receiver, tight end Greg Olsen, is sidelined with an injured foot. Running back Christian McCaffrey is a one-man gang but he can’t do it by himself. The underachieving defense is showing its age and their kicking game is in disarray.

If their season continues to go south and the Panthers miss the playoffs, don’t be surprised if new owner David Tepper fires Coach Riverboat Ron Rivera at season’s end.

And if it does, maybe Tepper can borrow Newton’s broom to clean house.

You can’t sweep the truth under the rug.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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