By Ted Fleming
The Charlotte Observer recently published a cartoon of Cam Newton doing his trademark Clark Kent to Superman impression (where he rips open his shirt). But instead of a big “S” on the chest, the paper depicted Newton wearing a pink shirt under his jersey…with a Hello Kitty logo on it. So maybe he was on the defensive.
Cam Newton was in no mood for questions about his late game “discussion” with wide receiver Steve Smith when he met the media following Wednesday’s practice. When first asked about it he said, “Who?” and leaned forward toward the questioner as if he really didn’t hear it. When Smith’s name was repeated the quarterback simply went, “Uh huh,” forcing another exact query.
Smith was already on record as saying he used “unchoice words” toward Newton on the sideline and it was kind of a teaching moment, but he snickered at any suggestion that the wideout was attempting to influence him in his development as a player or, heaven forbid, as a man.
“Steve Smith talks to me every single day,” he said somewhat mockingly. “Obviously it’s a teaching moment, so for you to say something like that out loud it’s kind of bogus for me. Y’all are getting some information I’m not getting? Y’all are scaring me. I don’t know if y’all are trying to come up with a story or a story that already set. Look, me and Smitty are on good terms.”
Newton would go on to say how much he respected the 12-year veteran and how much he talks with teammates and he would say quite a bit, sometimes very eloquently, about this Sunday’s game in Atlanta against the Falcons. But there was yet another part of the press conference where he showed his grasp of the Panthers’ plight so far this season is not based in reality.
“There is nothing to turn around,” he would nonchalantly quip when asked if a win over the Falcons would do just that. The Panthers are 1-2 and did not just lose those two games; they were embarrassed in each of them. Was it entirely Newton’s fault? Of course not, but his team won the game against the Saints, not him.
Head coach Ron Rivera has a lot to worry about this week–including injuries and getting prepared for Atlanta–and the last thing that should be on that list is the mental health of his fragile quarterback. But there it is, in living color, Cam Newton flipping his emotion switch on and off like a kid who just discovered he was tall enough to play with the outlet on the wall.
Rivera did a good job on Wednesday protecting his young quarterback by throwing out glowing practice tidbits.
“He’s been very good,” he said. “He was upset after the loss, he was upset Friday. When he came into work on Monday he was ready to go. I think the thing that he’s doing (possibly a reference to Newton allegedly seeing a “mind coach”), he’s working his way through those situations. The big thing is that he doesn’t let it affect his preparation for the next week and that’s probably the most important thing more so than anything else.”
When things are going well for the 23-year old former number one pick he carries himself like a winner but maybe the most important thing he has yet to learn is how to schmooze with the media instead of showing an utter contempt for them for simply doing their job.
TWO MINUTE WARNING: The Charlotte Observer’s timing of the Newton cartoon left something to be desired. If the paper wanted to slam the second-year quarterback, which is their right, they could have run it the day after the game, Friday, or better yet, Sunday when their circulation is at its peak. Do not be surprised if Cam Newton begins to hear fans yelling “Meow” at him when he walks on the field in the Georgia Dome on Sunday. If he has yet another bad game, it may follow him home to Bank of America Stadium when the Panthers host the luckiest team in the NFL so far this season–the Seahawks on October 7.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.