SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Add motivator -- or some might say agitator -- to the many talents of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
It was late in Saturday morning's practice. Rookie defensive end Kony Ealy was struggling. He couldn't get around reserve offensive tackle David Foucault, a Canadian player who earned a roster spot after being invited to a rookie minicamp.
Newton let Ealy know it, jawing at the second-round pick out of Missouri in a way only Newton can do with his loud, sometimes high-pitched voice accompanied with a big smile.
That seemingly made Ealy, a player the Panthers had graded as a late first-round pick, agitated.
Certainly more frustrated.
Newton didn't let up. Ealy didn't give up.
And after practice, Newton met Ealy with a playful hug to let him know everything would be all right.
"The nice part is Cam went up to him afterwards and put his arm around him and said, 'Hey, that's it. That's what you've got to learn to do. You've got to learn to push,''' Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "Quite honestly, things have been easy for [Ealy] because he's such a great football player and he had a great college career.
"Now you get up here and it's a little bit different game. There's a lot of pressure for guys to perform and it was great to see somebody put pressure on him and go up and put his arm around him and say, 'Hey, you're going to get it. You're going to get it.' '
Perhaps this will be a turning point for Ealy, who has done little to impress thus far in camp.
With starting ends Charles Johnson (hamstring) and Greg Hardy (shoulder contusion) nursing minor injuries, he got more reps than normal on Saturday. There were times when the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder showed some of the things the Panthers saw before the draft.
The Panthers need that to help take the league's No. 2 defense in 2013 to the next level. They need Ealy to spell Johnson and Hardy without a falloff in performance.
"He did some nice things,'' Rivera said. "I'm really excited about watching this tape.''
Rivera isn't a big fan of jawing because it can take away the focus and energy that should be on improvement. It also can hurt feelings, as Ealy's seemed to be.
But in this case, Rivera was OK with it because Ealy needed somebody to push him.
That it was his franchise quarterback doing the pushing just made it more entertaining.
"He jawed with me, too,'' Rivera said of Newton. "He's rolling now. He's rolling.''