Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Updated: March 9, 10:47 AM ET
Cam Newton impressive at pro day
AUBURN, Ala. -- Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton waited more than four hours while his Auburn teammates went through their drills at pro day.
Then came the 48-minute grand finale, where the quarterback once again put his arm and footwork on display before dozens of NFL officials. Newton felt he had plenty to prove after drawing less-than-rave reviews for his throwing session at the combine.
"Every single day I feel like I have coaching pointers," the 6-foot-5, 248-pounder said. "The combine was no different. I left there not happy with my performance but came out today and wanted to focus on the things I didn't do well at the combine."
That means making passes on patterns like comebacks, posts and out routes and being more consistent in making the transition from the spread to prostyle offenses. His performance drew some nice reviews.
"It was way better than the combine," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "I saw what I expected to see. He's a big-armed kid. He's working real hard on his footwork. By no means is he a finished product. Like any spread quarterback, he's got a long way to go with his footwork.
"His footwork hasn't caught up with his arm yet. He's working hard. The throws I was most impressed with were the ones I wanted to see, which were the deep ins, the skinny posts, the deep comebacks. Those are the throws you don't see a lot in the spread offense."
There were 125 NFL officials, including five head coaches, at the 5½-hour pro day, Auburn said. That includes new Carolina coach Ron Rivera, whose team has the first overall pick that some buzz has indicated might go to either Newton or Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Rivera declined to comment on the afternoon, but praised Newton at the combine.
Newton and Fairley both participated only in the position drills and let their 40 times and other performances from the combine stand.
That meant a long wait for both, who went back-to-back at the end. Newton chatted with NFL types -- including Rivera -- and former teammates, shagged field goals and basically hung out until his time came.
Even with all the focus on his throws, he offered both wide smiles and banter to people on the sidelines.
Unofficially, he threw 53 passes with receivers running routes and completed 42 of them with a few drops and several overthrows, including a couple on deep sideline routes. He was 10 for 10 before that.
His personal coach, George Whitfield Jr., called out a checklist of plays and then asked if there were any more that NFL officials wanted to see.
"That was his routine today. Go through it. Attack everything," said Whitfield, who has been working with Newton in San Diego. "And I thought he did that. He had fun. He's laughing, he's playing. I kind of think playing back here at Jordan-Hare [Stadium] maybe added a little bit to his comfort level, and hey, he's a very, very proud athlete and he's a very competitive guy.
"If Michael Jordan one night scores 20 points, you best believe the next team that he faces is going to have to deal with 45 going in. I think that's the kind of mindset Cam had today."
Whitfield said new Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer -- who might be looking to replace another mobile quarterback, Vince Young -- and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt asked for a couple of more throws.
Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix said he saw what he wanted to out of Newton, but emphasized that much more goes into drafting a player.
"Workouts are a small piece of the puzzle," said Nix, a former Auburn coach. "We go by how they play. Throwing's good. You can tell something about his release and you can tell something about his arm, but the only way you can tell if a guy can play quarterback is when he's being rushed and you've got coverage and you've got to throw it in a tight spot. That's kind of what we go by, 80 percent probably."
The Bills own the third overall pick.
Fairley, who won the Lombardi Award, didn't get quite the comprehensive look during a series of drills with other defensive linemen.
"If anybody can tell if a guy can play football running through those dummies, he's better than I am," Nix said. "But you do see athletic ability. He's got great ability and good feet and speed and burst and all those things. He's a good player. He makes plays on Saturday and he'll make them again on Sunday."
Fairley said he thought the day went "real well." He's still having trouble getting used to getting to talk with NFL coaches.
"It feels weird," he said. "I see those guys on TV and then those guys actually come and talk to me. It feels kind of good."
If Michael Jordan one night scores 20 points, you best believe the next team that he faces is going to have to deal with 45 going in.
-- George Whitfield Jr., quarterback coach for Cam Newton, on Newton atoning for his combine performance