Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Newton appears to have chip on shoulder
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton was asked if the Carolina Panthers had named team captains as he wrapped up his Wednesday afternoon media availability.
"No, we haven't,'' the quarterback said matter-of-factly. "Have no clue. I'm not worried about captains right now. There's other bigger fish in the sea right now for me.''
You get the feeling Newton has a chip on his shoulder as he begins his third NFL season. You can't blame him if he does, particularly entering Sunday's opener against the Seattle Seahawks with quarterback Russell Wilson.
Newton's counterpart is getting all the magazine covers and media attention that he did two years ago as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick of the draft. Russell is the cover boy, the one featured in GQ magazine this year. He's the trendy pick to lead his team to a Super Bowl.
Cam Newton has not made the postseason after two seasons in the NFL.
Newton's biggest 2013 spread so far may be the Humane Society of Charlotte calendar project in which he's pictured holding a puppy and calico kitten. He's the one being questioned whether he can be a leader and simply help the Panthers to a winning record. Asked about his personal goals for the year, Newton again said matter-of-factly, "To be 1-0 at the end of Sunday when I lay my head down. That's about as personal as it gets."
Again, you can't blame him. The player used to winning at every level has a 13-19 record at Carolina. He hasn't come close to sniffing the playoffs. Wilson already has a playoff victory, and he was a late field goal away from being the hero of a miraculous comeback against Atlanta that would have sent the Seahawks to the NFC Championship.
Newton has heard about Wilson all week and will continue to.
"This is not something new for him," Newton said when asked how he thinks Wilson is handling his notoriety. "He is a quarterback that has excelled in the collegiate level as well as in the pros.
"Stardom, that's nothing new for a quarterback of that magnitude. I'm not about to handicap him or feel sorry for him to a degree when we're almost in the same boat."
It's that almost part that brings on the chip, that creates the perception one quarterback is playing at one level and the other a notch below.
Newton has a chance to change that on Sunday. He's spent the offseason and training camp focusing on doing the little things that will take his game and the Carolina offense to another level.
The talent is still there. Just ask Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
"He can do everything,'' Carroll said. "I felt like that from Day 1 he walked onto the field.''
Newton just needs to win, as general manager Dave Gettleman said during camp.
Last year's loss to the Seahawks was a microcosm of Newton's pro career. He struggled most of the game, leading the offense to one field goal. He then drove Carolina 79 yards to the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but his fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
"Execution, that's what it comes down to,'' Newton said. "For us on offense, I feel as if there was things with pitching and catching we were just off a little bit. With running the ball, we were just off a little bit.
"Those plays linger, linger, linger. We look up and now it's the fourth quarter and now we need to drive. We can't put ourselves in that situation and expect for something good to happen at the end when we had multiple opportunities the whole time.''
This season is about opportunities for Newton. Will he be able to capitalize so some of the attention Wilson is getting gravitates back to him?
"Come game time when the bullets start flying we'll see how well I have evolved and matured with my game plan,'' Newton said when asked to compare his game today to what it was this time a year ago.
Chip? It sure seems that way.
David Newton is the Carolina Panthers team reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org