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A Former Player's Guide to Cam Newton and the NFL Ego

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A Former Player's Guide to Cam Newton and the NFL Ego
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The NFL may be fully stocked with egos in every locker room across the nation, but with the recent reports about player reactions to Cam Newton at last season's Pro Bowl, we are left wondering about Cam’s future in this league. Will his supersized ego aid his quest for NFL dominance, or will it cause him to fall flat on his face?

In an environment where egos are fittingly as gigantic as the players themselves, it appears as if Newton’s has inflated far beyond the limits of productivity.

One of the more prominent personal observations of mine upon arrival in the NFL was the stark contrast between the collegiate locker room and the professional one. At the pro level, egos are fully tended to thanks to the daily watering distributed unevenly via fans, media, coaches and other teammates. Naturally, the bigger the star, often you find the bigger ego, and rightfully so, it would seem.

But keep in mind, an ego is not inherently a bad thing. Being egotistical is seen to be a negative thing, and by inference, those with extra-high levels of self-esteem are taken to be egotistical, and therefore bad. The key then becomes achieving and maintaining the perfect balance between self-confidence and egotism.

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Ray Lewis seems to have found a perfect balance between self confidence and arrogance.

Having spent some time playing on several teams, I can confidently say NFL locker rooms are generally filled with some really kind and amazing people. Even guys you aren’t sure whether you'll like are still deeply fascinating and always fun, if not shocking, to listen to.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
One can only speculate how these two functioned together behind closed doors.

The funny thing about egos is getting to watch them interact with one another. I was always fascinated whenever such an opportunity arose, especially when the ego sizes were relatively large and often unyielding. This spectator sport has nearly all the enticing elements of a heavyweight fight.

Even when the verbal slugfest is outwardly presented as a casual, everyday interaction, the underlying ego battle is always present and observable through subtle signals in body language and voice inflection, not to mention the actual content and stance taken by each participating party.

It is, in fact, this daily culture of top-dog, alpha-male mentality that makes leadership skills in the NFL such a valuable yet rare quality to possess at the unchallenged level.

So, amidst this environment, how does Cam Newton’s ego compare to those around him?

Perhaps more importantly, will Newton’s perceived inflated ego prevent him from ever becoming the leader of the Carolina Panthers?

According a recent article by Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, Cam Newton was perceived as arrogant and standoffish to other players during his week in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl last season. This behavior apparently led to several upset and offended players on the AFC squad taking it upon themselves to teach Cam a lesson by coming after him in the actual Pro Bowl game.

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Newton has surely had his troubles with public perception throughout his short-lived career and has become much more divisive than his self-proclaimed “entertainer and icon” status. Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki had this to say about Cam Newton’s character well before he ever took a single snap in the NFL (via cssne.com):

Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room .... Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable.

After the overwhelming success of Cam Newton’s rookie season, many declared Nawrocki’s character assassination on Newton an absolute misfire. However, that description now may end up being the most accurate assessment and prediction of Newton’s potential of all.

Mind you, there’s no doubting his rare athletic abilities. Still, these major red flags could end up overshadowing all of his unworldly physical gifts.

When you compare this interview to Drew Brees after a loss there are clear differences

Many critics and fans alike are beginning to question the mental makeup of Cam Newton as time passes and this young man’s character is revealed. With each postgame interview, each celebration and following each loss, a more troublesome reality emerges than previously thought.

Newton’s love-fest for himself may end up being his worst enemy, if it isn’t already.

It has already turned off several players around the league and has likely played a significant role in his inability to emerge as the team’s unquestioned leader. By contrast, that's an accomplishment already achieved by current rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, who have both been much more effective in their leadership roles.

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It’s hard to say how good of a leader Cam will ever become. Whether or not he figures things out with experience has yet to be seen. He is, after all, only 23 years of age and has a lot of life and football still ahead of him.

However, perhaps it’s true when they say leaders are born and not made. If this is indeed the case, then the meteoric rise of this young franchise quarterback is sure to end, sending him crashing back down to earth in a similar fashion to one Vince Young, who currently is without an NFL team after his most recent release by the Buffalo Bills. He too was a highly gifted, big-time rookie quarterback at one point.

 

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