Is Cam Newton ready to be a captain? That's questionable. His demeanor has fluctuated a lot in his first two years, as we all know. I'd like to see him put together a solid year of team-first, no-pouting play. But he wants to be a captain. He's trying with some success to be a more positive, accountable player. Here's Joe Person's thoughtful story on the issue. And in fact, the Panthers actually wouldn't have to push someone else aside for Newton to assume that role.
According to the NFL, 23 teams elected season-long captains each year and nine changed it up on a week-to-week basis. The Panthers were one of the 23, with season-long captains Jordan Gross and Steve Smith on offense, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis on defense and Jordan Senn on special teams. Charles Johnson then was appointed a "substitute" captain after Beason went down with a season-ending injury.
But the NFL actually allows six season-long captains, not five. A number of teams take advantage of that and use all six slots, including New England, Denver, Kansas City, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Some teams add another special teams captain to have two on each of the three units. Others have three offensive captains or three defensive captains. The Panthers' captains are decided by a team vote in late August or early September, once the final roster is set.
Gross and Smith are shoo-ins for captaincy in 2013 -- their respect level is just too high for either to be replaced. Same thing with Beason and Davis. Among other logical candidates for captaincy this year would be Ryan Kalil, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams, Luke Kuechly, Charles Godfrey and Johnson (as a permanent addition, not a substitute). So it's a crowded field, but of the 23 teams that declared permanent captains last year, 18 of them included their starting quarterback in that role. That group included such relative youngsters as Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Sam Bradford.
When will Newton be ready for such a role?
"I don’t know," Gross said. "When the team’s ready I guess."
And that's absolutely correct. The coaching staff wants Newton to lead, but it should never mess with the results of a captaincy vote. Newton has to show his teammates, day in and day out, that he is a leader, and then the "C" on his jersey will come naturally. I'd guess it won't happen this year, but likely will by 2014.