After observing Cam Newton up close for a few months now, here are a couple of things I've noticed that aren't terribly significant but still interest me.
1) Newton likes to boil things down to absolutes: Wins, losses, successes, failures. He is a pretty bad loser at the moment, in part because he hasn't had much practice.
It is a plain and simple approach, although Newton would call it a "simple and plain" approach. He loves that phrase, using it at least once in every press conference. For instance, he said this week: "We could actually be 4-0, simple and plain."
2) The Panthers have drastically changed their offense to suit Newton, which makes a ton of sense. Notice how much they are in the shotgun now? Third-and-1, second-and-2, it doesn't seem to matter -- they will use it at anytime.
I went back to the play-by-play last week and counted it up. It turns out Newton was in the shotgun on about 65 percent of the Panthers' offensive snaps. Newton obviously sees the defense better from the shotgun since he played practically the entire year that way at Auburn in 2010.
I still wish Carolina would run him a little less at the goal line and their two highly-paid running backs a little more, though. That's quite a beating Newton is taking on every carry in the red zone. But it has worked out decently so far.
3) I asked Newton this week about what he does after scoring a touchdown when he puts both hands near his chest and then pulls them away. It's basically meant to be a takeoff of the way Superman rips open his shirt to reveal his Superman costume.
"My little brother likes it, so I'm going to keep doing it," Newton said.
The first time Newton did this, in the Arizona game, he got penalized 15 yards because he went to his knees first, and that's a no-no in the No Fun League.
But as far as TD celebrations go -- and Newton also does the Clark Kent/Superman thing when he gets introduced in the pregame -- this one fits. For now, Newton is the Panthers' Superman. And he also has a pair of glasses that he wears on occasion that look like they came straight off of Kent himself.
4) "Cam Mania" has, almost singlehandedly, made the Panthers relevant in the national football conversation again. He's already had a glowing feature about his play as a rookie in "Sports Illustrated," and unless things go south fast he's going to ultimately sweep the Rookie of the Year awards.
The other day I went on a radio show that was broadcast on 220 National Public Radio stations to talk about Cam -- and Cam only -- for 6-8 minutes. I've done a lot of radio and TV interviews about the Panthers over the years, but I can honestly say that's the first time I ever discussed the Panthers on NPR. Everyone notices this guy.
5) And speaking of noticing No.1: Everyone that sees Newton up close and in person for the first time remarks on how big he is. This is a given, much like a 7-footer guy walking through an airport and being asked if he plays basketball.
Newton is listed at 6-5 and 248 pounds, but he somehow comes off as larger than that. I don't know if it's good posture or what exactly. But he's forever drawing comparisons to guys like Julius Peppers, who in reality is at least two inches taller and 40 pounds heavier (Chicago coach Lovie Smith made that analogy last week).
But Newton looks bigger and thicker than most tight ends and some defensive ends. and When you see him up close, if you haven't already, you'll say something like that, too -- simple and plain.
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