We are on the eve of NFL training camps, which means the long drought of offseason NFL news is about to be over, thankfully. Media members scurry desperately for stories and "news" to feed the NFL monster this time of year, and nowhere was that more apparent than this week when Cam Newton being a fan of the Atlanta Falcons became an issue.
I looked up once at ESPN earlier this week and saw three talking heads discussing in depth whether Newton should be allowed to be a Falcon fan. Seriously? I know summertime is a slow time of year, but c'mon.
Newton being a Falcon fan makes absolutely no difference to me, and makes sense really. He grew up in the Atlanta area, idolized Michael Vick as a kid and answered a question truthfully from an Atlanta reporter last Saturday at an event at a southwest Atlanta.
"I've always been a Falcons fan, and I'm still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year," he said, referring to when Carolina plays the Falcons.
It reminds me of the "issue" earlier in the year when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore a Miami Dolphins cap and then needled fans who got upset about it a little bit on Twitter. There's no issue there, folks.
P.J. Hairston's situation at Chapel Hill right now? That's a big issue, and Roy Williams is right in saying "serious consequences" must result. The Pouncey twins wearing "Free Hernandez" caps? That's in very poor taste, but ultimately a minor issue for the Pounceys. Newton cheering for the Falcons? Not an issue at all.
Newton has had a very good summer, generally -- going to school at Auburn to work toward his degree, not holding any paid autograph appearances in Charlotte (he did one in 2012, which was a misstep) and getting out in both the Charlotte and Atlanta communities a lot.
Newton has gone 1-3 against the Falcons in his brief career, playing very well in 2012. Carolina should have beaten the Falcons twice last year, but Haruki Nakamura allowed a 59-yard pass over the top of his head in the final minute to set up Atlanta for the winning field goal in the first game. Then Newton absolutely dominated the second game.
So if he wants to cheer for the Falcons, I'm not bothered one bit by that. I'm far more interested in whether he becomes a true leader on the field this year, and ultimately whether he can win as an NFL quarterback. The fact that he hasn't had a winning season yet as an NFL QB and that Carolina is 2-12 in games decided by seven points or fewer since he arrived? Now that's the real issue, and the one Newton must change this season.