By Ted Fleming
Cam Newton can relax a little as he heads into the week’s preparation for the Falcons in Atlanta. That’s because his Panthers received a little help on Sunday keeping them relevant for at least a few more weeks.
Carolina got some good news early in the afternoon when the Cowboys knocked off the Buccaneers and the Chiefs came away with one of the big upsets of the day stunning the still winless Saints. However, the late game dashed any hope of getting help in three different cities as the Falcons went to 3-0 off a 24-point victory over a Chargers squad that is now no longer unbeaten.
The NFC South is a one team division at this point with Atlanta up by a pair of games on Carolina and Tampa Bay, three up on New Orleans–not a good place to be in after just three games. The Panthers can control their own fate pulling to within one game if they can ground the Falcons, but that is a tall order having to play on their turf, even if everyone was upbeat. They are not, and it begins with the man under center.
Steve Smith lit into Newton on the sideline hoping to get him out of his funk. It didn’t work this time; just as much as it failed last year in a similar circumstance. Sitting all alone on the bench with a towel draped over your head does nothing but have your teammates question your leadership abilities and possibly your character.
They say you can learn a lot by watching; maybe that is why the backup quarterback carries a clipboard and is attached to the head coach like a mother is to her child. There was something learned on Thursday but it was about Newton – he detached himself from the rest of the team because they were losing.
Newton’s character has been tested and the results are mixed–super high after a win but the lows obliterate the other strides he makes. So far, Newton has a losing record and if he cannot turn it around, the sulking will have the Panthers’ brass thinking they made a mistake taking him with the first overall pick.
Newton’s desire to win is understandable, and should be lauded. He will flash that huge ear-to-ear grin for days on end when things go well. That desire should not be tinkered with by a coach, front office or even the media. There are enough defeatists in professional sports and some teams are more than willing tom part ways with them even if they have superior talent or are one of the best players on it.
The second year pro out of Auburn set all sorts of rookie records in 2011, but the knock against him has carried into this season, and you have to look no further than Newton’s post game press conference last Thursday. The word “bust” is beginning to circulate and that comes after many repetitions of another called “whiner.”
It has already leaked out that the team is concerned about the mental makeup of the 23-year old. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said so on Sunday NFL Countdown. Even if you think that Mortensen got some bogus information, how far from the truth is it?
Here is another thought. If the Panthers can Newton’s shortcomings, imagine what their opponents see. If they know he can be taken out his your game with a few bad breaks they will do everything in their power make it happen. And that failing could become a huge problem for the franchise going forward.
There is a huge long-term investment in Newton. Should he fail to live up to the promise of better days ahead because he cannot handle the NFL pressure cooker, there could be a lot fans disguised as empty seats at Bank of America Stadium again.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.