Newton's decision-making and maturity in character are just two ways in which the young stud can turn this Panther team into a playoff-caliber contender.
Newton broke countless NFL records in 2011, and he did it with possibly the biggest disadvantage possible.
With the NFL lockout scare, Newton was unable to work with his teammates and staff for the majority of the summer last season. As a rookie, those first few months in training camps and OTAs are simply invaluable.
It’s where you learn the system. It’s how you develop rhythm. And as a quarterback, there is nothing more important than those two things.
Despite the adversity, Newton shined in his rookie year, putting up some of the best numbers we have ever seen in a player this young.
But his 6-10 record as a starter was nothing to brag about.
A huge factor in those 10 losses were the Panthers’ 25th ranked defense, and with only a few adjustments coming into 2012, that defense will likely struggle again.
The way that Carolina can turn things around is if Newton works out some of the kinks of 2011. He needs to improve upon his 17 interceptions, the sixth highest total last season.
That’s 17 more possessions that opponents can (and most likely will) score on the Panthers’ secondary. With such a poor defense, time of possession has to be the focus.
Thankfully, an extended preseason is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Back in May, Newton told Yahoo! Sports that he was a “bad teammate” in 2011. He “shut off” teammates and coaches when he should’ve instead acknowledged them for their support.
Newton lost 10 games with Carolina last season, and that lack of success frustrated him in ways he hasn’t yet grown accustomed to.
Think about it. Newton probably didn’t lose 10 games in college and high school combined. It was his first season without success, but the best part is, he has learned from it.
He has pinpointed the problem, and now he is working towards an improvement.
Newton wants to be the best there is, and first and foremost, that means maturing as a professional athlete.
But this past week, Newton seemed to take a step in the wrong direction.
When Cam Newton broke the rushing touchdown record for NFL quarterbacks last season, he didn’t even bother keeping the ball.
Instead, Newton searched the Tampa Bay stands for an outnumbered Panther fan, passing the piece of history off like a saltshaker at a dinner table.
Sixteen-year-old Katie Brown was the recipient of that ball, and within minutes, the Panthers’ assistant equipment manager Don Toner came over to collect the Hall of Fame-bound memento.
Toner asked Brown if she would mind exchanging her prize for one of lesser value. ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas explains how Brown turned Newton’s record-setting ball over with a smile.
I honestly believe Cam deserves to have that ball…It was his record and his achievement. He should have it.
Brown could’ve easily sold that ball for thousands of dollars, but she didn’t.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where ruthless fans send their kids to the front of autograph signings with the sole intention of selling that memorabilia on eBay. Brown, however, proved that there are still a few admirable souls.
The relationship between Newton and Brown for those few moments is a prime example of the powerful bond that can exist between a player and fan. Newton has proven to cherish that relationship thus far in his career, but this past Saturday, he strayed off that exemplary path.
Last weekend, Newton hosted an autograph signing in Charlotte where fans were able to bring jerseys, helmets, photographs and more. Only they had to pay over a hundred dollars to get his famous signature.
I understand former players appearing at these events, but for some reason, this just doesn’t sit well in my stomach.
It’s an unwritten sanction in Newton’s contract to be a prominent figure in the community of the Carolinas.
Look back at Brown’s statement after handing her ball over. She said Newton deserved to have the ball back.
But don’t Newton’s biggest fans deserve a free autograph in the same way?
Maybe I’m being over-dramatic, but I wish more than anything players resembled sports’ forefathers who were able to understand that their fans are everything in the world.
I remember reading an article of Bill Simmons’ during the NBA Finals where he highlighted how Kevin Durant signed autographs for twenty minutes after he finished his warm-up routine before Game 2.
Let me repeat. Durant took his mind off the biggest game of his career in order to give fans the best NBA experience possible.
Now that’s giving your fans what they deserve.