Cam Newton not upset over Pro Bowl

Cam Newton's Magazine Cover Shoot

Behind the scenes with Cam Newton on his ESPN the Magazine NEXT photo shoot.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite a record-setting rookie season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was not selected to the Pro Bowl.

He certainly isn't pouting over it.

"Who am I to be mad at the fact that I'm the first alternate?" Newton said with a wide smile Wednesday.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning were selected over Newton, even though Manning has seven fewer total touchdowns.

Newton says he was "honored" to be selected as a first alternate and knows there's a good chance he might wind up replacing one of the guys ahead of him if he pulls out of the game or if the Packers, Saints or Giants wind up in the Super Bowl, which is now played one week after the Pro Bowl.

"Those three guys are at the peak of their game," Newton said.

Still, Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Newton deserved to go, citing the rookie's ability to make plays with his feet. Newton has thrown for 20 touchdowns and run for 14, the most ever by a quarterback.

By comparison, Manning has 27 total touchdowns -- 26 passing and one rushing.

Manning, however, has more yards passing (4,587) than Newton (3,893) and has a slightly higher quarterback rating.

Both have 16 interceptions.

"I'm disappointed," Rivera said. "He's first alternate, but still. People talk about the numbers weren't as good as some of the other guys. But I disagree because of the combined numbers -- not just throwing the ball, but running the ball."

The Panthers have led in 14 of 15 games this season, but are just 6-9 because they've struggled to close out games in the fourth quarter.

Manning's Giants will face the Cowboys this Sunday for the NFC East division title.

All things considered, Newton has had a remarkable season for the Panthers and is one of the top candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year.

He's already broken Peyton Manning's rookie record for yards passing in a season and has shattered Steve Grogan's 35-year-old record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

This week against the Saints he needs 107 yards to become the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 500 in the same season.

Saints coach Sean Payton wouldn't divulge who he voted for in the Pro Bowl, but said Newton has been impressive. He also believes Newton will end up playing in the game one way or the other.

"He's going to have a ton of opportunities to play in the Pro Bowl," Payton said of Newton. "To be a rookie with no offseason and literally no minicamp and to report to training camp and do what he's done is amazing. ... He's a guy that I see in that game. Unfortunately he's also in our division."

Payton said he was impressed with Newton the first time he saw him in a uniform.

"I remember being out at midfield the last time we played and seeing his stature and size and arm strength," Payton said. "He's got that warm smile that's contagious to playing quarterback in this league and I think that (confidence) exudes over to his team."

When asked if he's exceeded his own expectations this year, Newton said, "I'm all about how team success plays out and our record is not where we want to be. My goal before this year was to make it to the playoffs. We had ample opportunities to make that happen and I think we dropped the ball on that."

Center Ryan Kalil, who will represent the Panthers at the Pro Bowl along with receiver Steve Smith, said he expects Newton will be making plenty of trips to Hawaii in the future.

"I think he has the respect of a lot of guys around the league and let's face it, there's nothing wrong with being a first alternate either, especially against the quarterbacks he has to compete against," Kalil said. "But he's had a heck of a season, especially as a rookie who didn't have an offseason that a guy normally would have because of the lockout."

Kalil said he's seen Newton mature as a leader both on and off the field.

"We can't be more excited about having him for the future," Kalil said.

Newton is excited, too.

"The one thing we have made a big stride in is creating that hope and a buzz in the community of Charlotte," Newton said. "You can see the fan support everywhere and to some degree we've succeeded in that level."