By Ted Fleming
Name: Cam Newton – QB – #1
Weight: 245 lbs.
Hometown: College Park, GA
Experience: 3 years
After an extraordinary rookie season in 2011, Cam Newton became the toast of the town. A 6-10 record notwithstanding, the Carolina Panthers seemingly had their quarterback for the next decade.
Newton had size at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, good looks, an infectious personality and oh, that thousand-watt smile. Praise was heard from all corners of the football world about his talent and he landed quite a number of commercial endorsements to boot.
The world belonged to Newton, but a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the best QB in the NFL. The Panthers lost eight of their first 10 and with each mounting loss, the smile that defined Newton gradually disappeared. He also drew the ire of some by pointing fingers at those he thought responsible for the downturn in Carolina’s fortunes.
It was suggested that Newton was in the throes of what is commonly referred to as the “sophomore jinx,” even though he didn’t want to hear it. Things began to turn around for the Panthers with an 8-point victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 11, and even though they lost a heartbreaker in Kansas City, the team would run the table, winning four straight to actually better Newton’s first year record by a game.
Newton showed up for his third Panthers’ camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina on July 25 and was ready to get back to work to carry momentum over after finishing strong at the end of last season.
“We are going to clean our slate,” Newton said. “This a brand new season and that’s what we are going to keep it at. Right now we are embarking on training camp trying to start fresh and get in good habits right now to go into the season. I think it sets precedents but that’s when the season starts but right now we are in training camp and are trying to focus on building an identity. Trying to get comfortable in the things we know we can be good at. That’s what Coach Shula is trying to instill in us right now. Having a good sense of morale, being up-tempo, executing each and every play.”
Newton has some impressive individual numbers over his first two seasons, throwing for 7,920 yards, an NFL record. That toppled Peyton Manning’s mark of 7,874 in 106 fewer pass attempts. He is the only quarterback in league history to rush for 500 or more yards in each of his first two seasons and his 22 touchdowns over that span smashed the Patriots’ Steve Grogan’s record of 15.
The former first overall pick in the 2011 draft is the only player in NFL history to have thrown for at least 5,000 yards with 25 passing touchdowns, 1,000 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns (he had 22) in the first two seasons. The list goes on; however, the Panthers record the last two seasons is 13-19. Newton knows he needs to change that before people start looking at him once again in glowing terms.
“I think as time progresses, I think anybody will start to sink their teeth in something and get confidence,” he said. “For me, it’s about that to a degree, but most importantly understanding what this offense is about and knowing each and every person’s assignment and being the ultimate field general.”
It was reported that Newton lost 18 pounds and was asked if he feels lighter and quicker as a result of his weight loss. “I think we will just have to see come practice time.”
If the Panthers are to become contenders in the NFC South, they’ll need to keep their quarterback upright and limit the amount of hits he takes but Newton isn’t concerned about all that, he just wants victories.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.