It was very interesting watching Cam Newton Thursday morning as the Carolina Panthers and their player-led workout crew allowed in the media for a half hour of interviews and practice viewing.
Newton very obviously is trying to act like a rookie and not like a Heisman Trophy winner nor the No.1 overall draft choice nor someone who met President Obama Wednesday -- although he is all of those things.
It's hard to do that when you're Cam, though. The Panthers were going to make a half-dozen players available prior to their final optional workout at Charlotte Christian Wednesday -- all of them veterans except Cam. The players went up into the bleachers at the school and were asked to spread out by the media to allow for one-on-one interviews.
Newton seemed to want to stay in the background and quite innocently took a seat right behind veteran (and fairly anonymous) Panther defensive end Tyler Brayton.
The media (including me) then surrounded Newton, which made it awkward for Brayton. I don't blame Brayton for getting up and then quietly leaving the gathering himself. (The other players who did talk were Jordan Gross, Jon Beason, Jason Baker and Jeremy Shockey).
Newton was the star attraction, asked more questions by more reporters for a longer period of time than anyone else. He really tried to sound pleasant and positive without saying very much. Overall, he succeeded -- I thought it was a good "media day" for Newton, who steered away from all controversy and toward free-floating optimism at every turn.
Here's a sampling:
-- On his mindset for these two weeks of optional workouts: "Try to meet the guys. See what each player was really about. You talk to them over the phone, you text them, but that can only go so far. We have had a lot of opportunity to mingle with each other as far as going out to eat, having small talk. That's how you get team chemistry. You can't get that over the phone."
-- On how he's doing learning the Panthers' playbook: "Time will tell. As far as me being familiarized with the playbook and the base of it, I think I have a whole grip on who we are as an offense."
-- On the biggest adjustment from college to the NFL: "One thing is preparation, obviously -- preparing as a quarterback in the NFL is completely different as compared to the collegiate level. Also the terminology, the blitz schemes and also at the end of the day, you're not playing freshmen anymore. You're playing grown men. and this is where speed comes into play at all times."
-- On his developing relationship with Steve Smith: "Steve is a person I really admire. I've heard a lot of things about Steve and only half of them [are] true. But one thing everybody knows is Steve Smith is a playmaker -- a bona fide playmaker at that. I've talked to Steve numerous times and he's always encouraging me to not settle. And anybody that goes as far to do that is a special person."
Newton also noted that Smith has shown up at the Panthers' optional workouts at least once and impressed the quarterback immediately with his explosiveness and his hands. "To some degree, he's on a different level," Newton said. "And I told him this. You know I throw a three-step drop or an out route, I've got to get back real fast to get it to him extremely quick because he's that explosive as a player."
My thoughts? Smith, by showing up for at least one workout and praising Newton in a Monday interview is trying to mend some fences just in case he does end up staying a Panther in 2011.