Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Stupid Remark May Open Newton's Eyes to Reality

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 11, 2017

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton addresses the media after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

This week, the 10-Point Stance explores why some players still don't understand the power their words possess, the mental hurdles OBJ faces and why J.J. Watt deserves the hype.


1. Cam Newton's Wake-Up Call

In the first hours after Cam Newton made his stupid and sexist remark about a female journalist's ability to discuss passing routes, he didn't understand the firestorm he had set off. 

"He didn't initially realize the uproar he created," one Panthers teammate told B/R. "Cam is sometimes in his own world."

Two Panthers players B/R interviewed said Newton is easily one of the nicest, most decent men they've ever known. He is well-liked on the Panthers, these players added.

But both also explained Newton is sometimes clueless about the power modern NFL quarterbacks possess, and that words matter.

One player told me that soon after Newton made his controversial comments—laughing while telling a room of reporters, "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes"—his phone "blew up."

"I had friends, cousins, former teachers, my mom, everybody call me and say, 'What was he thinking?'" he said.

Newton seemed to be unaware of how big the story had become until a team official told him he'd become one of the biggest trending stories in the nation, one player said. Newton was stunned. Later, he issued a video apology.

Players who know Newton stressed how, in their opinion, what he said doesn't define who he is. Yet they also acknowledge Newton doesn't seem to understand every word of a star in the NFL is magnified.

It's hard to believe Newton, an extremely bright individual who has spent his entire college and professional life under the largest of microscopes, doesn't understand that phenomenon. But this incident shows that might indeed be the case.

Critics say his remarks reveal his sexism.

Players say it's more like to Newton, everything is a joke. Even if the joke is stupid or inappropriate.

As disarming as Newton may want that attitude to be, it doesn't serve the stage he has. Whether he realizes it or not, Newton and other NFL stars have been afforded a voice that carries beyond the field.

The power of the NFL player has become a hot topic since President Donald Trump interjected himself into how players are protesting social injustices. 

"Athletes: through everything that's happened in the past few weeks," union spokesman George Atallah tweeted, "consider the power you wield."

Atallah wasn't tweeting about Newton, but it applies. Newton failed to understand the power he possessed. People listen closely to star players. All of their words are parsed and measured.

To be fair, Newton is far from the only player who has struggled with this power.

Though far less troubling in terms of gender discourse, we just saw Ben Roethlisberger make a flippant remark that "maybe I don't have it anymore" after a horrible loss to Jacksonville on Sunday. His words weren't aggressively divisive, but they're still a far bigger problem and distraction than anything Antonio Brown has ever done. Brown kicked over a Gatorade cooler. Roethlisberger publicly mulled retirement, which can cause problems in a locker room.

"Right now, I think he is in a state of frustration, but I'm concerned because it seems to me that maybe he's given up a little bit," future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson said on NFL Network (via PennLive's Lauren Kirschman) in reference to Roethlisberger. "Maybe he's coming to grips that it's over for him. For him to respond like that, that's more than frustration to me. When you start to say things like that, then you're questioning if you really can get it done anymore."

Again, this is an example of someone struggling to recognize that words matter.

"You can't have your leader, your star, your quarterback, your most handsomely paid player on your team acting like this and talking like this," said Hall of Famer Deion Sanders on the same show. "It's detrimental to the success of the team."

And this is a guy who has been in the NFL since 2004 and won two Super Bowls. He should know all of this, but he doesn't.

Players on the Panthers believe Newton gets it now. He'd better because everyone will be watching Newtonand every high-profile playercloser than ever before.


2. Attacking Downfield Counts

On the field, Newton has been moving the football better, and the offense is clicking. In the past two weeks, Newton has thrown for 671 yards and six touchdowns in a pair of Panthers wins. 

One stat helps explain why. It comes from Brandon Gdula, an analyst at numberfire.com:

More big shots down the field lead to more opportunities. Sometimes it is that simple.

3. Where's Roger?

The league will dispute it, but a number of NFL sources say there is widespread confusion among owners on how to handle player protests.

As of now, owners seem to be acting on their own, as no unified policy has been settled upon. Jerry Jones said any player who kneeled during the anthem would be benched. Other owners, such as Jed York of the 49ers, have not attempted to stop their players from kneeling. 

The most interesting part of this is how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to have little say with the owners on this issue. The owners are taking the lead on this, no matter how scattered their reactions, leaving the commissioner's role a mystery to a few people B/R spoke to around the league.


4. Who's the GOAT This Week?

Roger Steinman/Associated Press

Depending on what day it is, I go back and forth about who is the best quarterback ever. One moment, I'll say Tom Brady. In the next, I'll say Aaron Rodgers. We need some kind of nickname for the two, the way Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are called J-Rod. What about T-Rod? 

This week, I'm back to thinking Rodgers is the best. He has 18 fourth-quarter touchdown passes since the beginning of the 2016 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the most in football.

But what Rodgers does goes beyond the data. Sometimes it's just a combination of football beauty and acumen. Besides being a remarkably accurate passer, Rodgers is also one of the best pure athletes in the sport. Like Brady, he will pick an undermanned team up, place it square on his shoulders and carry it like a mule.

So this week, it's Rodgers.

I'm sure it won't be long before I shift back to Brady.


5. This Is Eli Manning. Please Send Help.

This video of Eli Manning getting sacked is, well, staggering:

It's rare to see one offensive lineman get trucked so badly. It's something else to see an entire side of the line get washed.

Manning has been dealing with this all season. It's perhaps the biggest reason why the Giants are winless, and also why there will be massive changes in that organization once this season comes to a close.


6. The High Mental Cost of a Broken Ankle

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants is carted off the field after sustaining an injury during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers during an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on October 8, 2017 in East Ruth
Steven Ryan/Getty Images

I wanted to know more about what it will be like for Odell Beckham as he recovers from his broken ankle, so I emailed Dr. Steven Weinfeld, an orthopedic surgeon and the chief of foot and ankle surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

"A fractured ankle that undergoes surgery needs 8-10 weeks to heal from a bone perspective," Weinfeld wrote. "The muscles around the ankle take even longer to regain full strength, and these are the muscles that protect the ankle from further injury.

"For a skill player like Beckham, there is also a significant psychological impact, as these players rely on being able to make sharp cuts to complete a pass pattern. A strong, stable ankle is critical to a speed player to be effective."

Beckham will be back and will be fine, but what Weinfeld said about the psychological hurdles was something I've often heard players mention. Indeed, it seems the hardest part of returning from a devastating injury is overcoming mental obstacles.

That will be Beckham's greatest challenge.


7. Fly Eagles Fly

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The last time the Eagles played at least three of their first five games on the road and started with a record of 4-1 or better was in 1954 (4-1), according to the team. The only other times Philadelphia accomplished the feat was in 1950 (4-1), 1949 (4-1) and 1944 (4-0-1).

Why now? It's because the Eagles are among the mentally toughest teams in the NFL. They play with a fearlessness and a mindset that gives them a chance to win anywhere.

8. And the Season's Biggest Bust Is…

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Amari Cooper #89 of the Oakland Raiders is unable to make a catch against the Baltimore Ravens during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 8, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/G
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Amari Cooper. The Raiders star pass-catcher had eight receiving yards last week against the Ravens. For the season, he has only 13 catches for 118 yards and one touchdown. He isn't helping much in real football, and especially not in fantasy circles.

One scout told me it's a classic case of a guy who is lost in his own head. He's in a slump and doesn't have the mental strengthat least not yet—to shake himself out of it.


9. J.J. Watt Gets It

Brett Coomer/Associated Press

J.J. Watt is one of the most decent and sincere players I've ever interviewed, and his impact on the league will be felt despite him now being out for the year with a tibial plateau fracture. Before his injury, Watt spoke to NBC's Football Night in America about his efforts to raise money for hurricane relief in Houston, remarks that offer a genuine look at a genuine person:

"It was literally as simple as a cell phone video and a fundraiser. I didn't know if we were going to hit $200,000. The great people of the world took it from there and ended up with over $37 million.

"Since we ended the donations, what I've been doing is having personal meetings, phone calls, conversations with all different organizations who are here, on the ground in Houston. The No. 1 thing that I learned from people in other disasters was make sure you take your time to do it right.

"We are going to do a lot of good things. It's going to cover a few different areas. It's going to do things like rebuilding homes, food banks, and childcare centers, and medicine, and healthcare.

"I just want people to know that I'm making that $37 million go as far as we possibly can but there is so much more out there to be done so please keep donating. Please keep helping to all of these other organizations who are doing such great things."

10. Divas

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Last week in this spot, in light of Antonio Brown's recent sideline tantrum, I asked readers to explain why they think wide receivers get tagged with the diva role after acting up while quarterbacks who do the same often get tagged as "competitors."

I got a lot of responses, but the most commonly cited reason was that receivers have a long history of diva-like behavior while quarterbacks don't. I can buy that.

Perhaps the most eye-opening quote on the issue, though not said in response to my question, came from ESPN's Ryan Clark, who is a truth-teller if there ever was one.

"Antonio has done an extremely good job of tricking people," Clark, a former teammate of Brown, said on ESPN Radio (per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio). "He's done a very good spin job of having us think, or making people think who don't know him, that it's all about the Pittsburgh Steelers, [that Brown is] just a hard worker who's here to win football games. No, Antonio Brown loves Antonio Brown. If you listen to people talk about him. If you listen to the media, a lot of time the fans, they have an adoration for him that is not necessarily a depiction of who he is. He's like most receivers. He's selfish." 

Clark played with Brown for four years.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 


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