Cam Newton has made very few false steps in his rookie season, but he took one in a videotaped interview with ESPN The Magazine that has caused a lot of comment in the Carolinas.
Newton said during the interview of the Panthers’ organization: “The house that I’m in is somewhat of a tarnished house where losing is accepted.”
And he also said some teammates don’t take losses seriously enough. Newton is known for taking losses particularly hard – the Panthers are 4-8 at the moment. He has sometimes isolated himself from teammates – and everyone else – for a relatively long time after games and once snapped at tight end Greg Olsen when Olsen was trying to console him following a defeat.
I thought most of what Newton said in his interview was just fine. And a “want-to-win-so-bad-it-hurts” demeanor, let’s remember, is part of what got Michael Jordan to where he ended up.
But occasionally what Newton said struck me as odd. Newton’s analogy in the interview where he said he was a “lion” that someone was trying to make a “house pet” was just downright confusing. And then he sounded for a second like he would consider leaving the Panthers – where he is in the first year of a four-year, $22-million contract -- before backtracking.
“But I’m trying to change that [losing attitude],” Newton said at one point, continuing his lion analogy, “if I’m going to have to turn that house into a safari [where a lion could thrive, presumably] or I’m just going to have to get out of that house. Now I’m not saying – hear me out, what I’m saying now – I’m not saying I’m trying to leave this place, I’m just trying to get everybody on my level.”
As a player, that’d be a great thing. If everyone was on Newton’s level, the Panthers would be headed to the playoffs.
In other ways, though, it’s not such a great thing. Newton is 22 years old and sometimes he sounds a lot like it. This interview was one of those times.
As for Panther fans suddenly panicked that Newton will leave, don’t be. He’s not going anywhere at least through the 2014 season, when his original rookie contract runs out. And he’s so good the Panthers will break the bank to keep him after that – or, alternately, use their franchise tag to make sure he stays in Charlotte for many more years to come.
Bottom line: this interview wasn’t Newton’s best work. But while the damage was avoidable, it was also slight -- and will be forgotten before long.
(UPDATE: I had to disable the ability to post comments to this blog on Friday, Dec.9th -- sorry. As is too often the case on any Cam Newton-related blog, after awhile too many of the comments deteriorated into a bunch of cursing and name-calling. I left up the comments that weren't out-and-out obscene. If you feel strongly that you want to express your opinion on this post to me, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)