- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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He could learn a thing or two about sliding.
For all Newton has done right in leading the Panthers to three consecutive victories, he continues to put his body at risk with head-first dives on runs.
He did it numerous times during Thursday night's 31-13 victory at Tampa Bay, to the point people were suggesting that the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft get with the local minor league baseball team for sliding lessons.
Don't think Panthers coach Ron Rivera hasn't thought of that. Or that he isn't concerned.
"A lot of concerns," Rivera said of his franchise quarterback. "Every time he runs there are concerns. Honestly, there really is. I know he's trying to play smart and do things that are smart and he does things the right way.
"He's competitive by nature. Competitive people, who are truly competitive, always try to do the hard thing. Cam will never try to do the easy thing, and that's to slide that way."
Newton ran 11 times for a team-high 50 yards on Thursday night. With the exception of his 6-yard touchdown run, in which he danced into the end zone basically untouched, he went awkwardly head-first on most of the other runs.
Rivera understands why, even if he doesn't always agree with it.
"We've tried everything with him,'' Rivera said. "He knows that if he slides the ball reverts to where he first touches the ground, but if he goes forward it's [progress] until he stops. Again, it's his competitive nature.''
It's that same competitive nature that has Newton competing at the highest level of his NFL career. He has completed 77.3 percent of his passes over the past three games as Carolina has outscored its opponents 96-38.
Rivera wants to keep his quarterback healthy for that to continue next weekend against Atlanta.
"We've talked with him,'' Rivera said "He's done it [slid] in practice a few times, but for the most part he's going to do it his way."
Perhaps Newton will see something in the World Series this weekend that will change his mind.