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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Too much being made of Captain Cam

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith is right -- there are more important things to discuss heading into Sunday's opener against the Seattle Seahawks than what it means for quarterback Cam Newton to be named a team captain.

The "C" patch appearing on Newton's uniform -- the first time in his brief NFL career -- won't make him throw more touchdowns or improve his accuracy. It won't make him a better leader or more of a leader -- or less of a leader.

At least it shouldn't.

Cam Newton
Cam Newton is expected to lead the Panthers with his play, not a patch on his uniform.
What will make Newton -- or the perception of Newton -- better is winning. That cures all.

"It's a nice piece of jewelry on your jersey," Smith said Thursday of being named a captain, which he is once again. "That's all it is. We've got to play ball, man. Y'all are worrying about the minute, small, insignificant things.

"That captain patch doesn't give us an extra 10 points on the board. I don't get the big deal about it."

Again, he's right. It's not a big deal.

But it is significant in that had the third-year quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner and the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft, not been voted one of six captains, questions about his leadership and teammates' respect would have escalated.

And the noise from outside the locker room would have grown louder because people look for the quarterback to be a leader. More times than not, they are voted captain.

"I think it's significant because it's talking about his growth and I've been asked that question all through training camp," coach Ron Rivera said. "This is part of his growth is that he continues to step up and show his leadership abilities. And he plays a position that you most certainly are put into that position of being a leader."

Before anyone asks, the vote wasn't fixed -- at least not for Newton. Howver, Rivera told the players, left tackle Jordan Gross and Smith were "captains emeritus" because of their long-standing leadership.

So it was 53 players voting for four spots, with two already set.

That Newton received the votes to be one of the four is an honor. It shows, as player after player said, respect.

But it doesn't mean Newton is respected any more than tight end Greg Olsen or running back DeAngelo Williams, both of whom will play a big role against Seattle.

"I've been here eight years and I haven't been a captain, but it doesn't bother me," Williams said. "It's special to be a captain, but at that quarterback position, you're pushed into a leadership role anyway."

And if you don't win, eventually you'll be pushed out of the lineup, even if you have that patch.

"It's been written about and talked about way more outside this room than it's ever been talked about in here, to be honest," Gross said of Newton being a captain. " ... It means your teammates think highly of you, but it's not the end all.

"Greg Olsen could lead the team to a victorious comeback by a speech he could give just as easily. You need more than six leaders on your team for it to be a good team."

In other words, there are more important issues the Panthers have to address heading into Sunday.

Smith tried to tell us that before growing tired of the questions.

"The reason I sound irritated is y'all are putting too much flak on what somebody is or isn't," he said. "Personally, it's unfair and stupid. You're missing the big picture. The big picture is 53 guys in here voted for six people. There is no one captain that is more important than the other."