After the Carolina Panthers’ 24-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, rookie quarterback Cam Newton was extremely critical of his performance, calling it unacceptable.
He called his 6-for-19 passes for 75 yards an “embarrassing stat.”
After watching film of the Bengals game and four practices later, Newton hasn’t really changed his tone. On Tuesday, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner joked about taking it easy on himself. He even joked about how difficult the NFL is.
But the rookie signal caller quickly pushed aside the teasing and let the media know he expects to play at a high level. For Newton, he is trying to find balance in leading his team and playing well.
“What I call it is an expectation I have for myself,” Newton said about his comments after last week’s game. “And when I don’t play up to that expectation of course I’m going to be down on myself, I don’t think of it as a joke or anything. I think of it as the competitive nature in me. Sometimes I can be too hard on myself. (Panthers offensive coordinator) Coach Chud says, ‘You have to be even keeled.’ You have good days, and you have bad days. You have to stay level and keep pushing.”
Newton has been pushing positively in practice since his poor showing against the Bengals. He said he had a good week and has learned a lot from watching the film of his last game. He said the Panthers’ preseason finale at 8 p.m. Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers will reveal a lot about the team.
However, he doesn’t believe his struggles in the last two games are related to his mechanics. In recent days, many NFL experts and media personnel have suggested that Newton’s mechanics are bad and are the reason for his struggles.
“You know what the play call is, and whatever the defense gives – your outlet is this,” he said. “In the back of my mind, it can’t be any ‘uh…’ You always have to be direct. I think that is the biggest problem. It is not about mechanics at this stage. It is all about trusting what the call is and executing it.”
And Newton made it clear Carolina isn’t going to go through the motions because this is the final preseason game. He points out this final exhibition game gives him a chance to continue to work the offensive system, make the right decisions and throws.
“There are no such things as throwaways in our book, especially what we were giving this past year as far as (the) lockout is concerned,” he said about the team’s approach to Thursday’s game. “Every time we have an opportunity to come in and get some practice in or get some work in we are all for it.”
Newton knows playing well will help him eschew the bad taste of his last performance, which included a lot of poor throws and a handful of good plays.
Moreover, Panthers coach Ron Rivera still hasn’t named a regular season starter. So, Newton can help his case in becoming the regular season starter by playing well against Pittsburgh.
Rivera was lukewarm on Newton’s last performance too. Besides Newton’s impressive run for a 16-yard touchdown and his 28-yard completion to tight end Greg Olsen, the rest of his performance was inconsistent.
Rivera described Newton’s performance after the Cincinnati game as “erratic at times.” But he said it was good to see his quarterback play three quarters. Everyone needs to understand that Newton wants to do well, Rivera said.
Asked about Newton being critical of his own performance, Rivera said he wants all his players to hold themselves to a high standard.
“At the same time you have to have realistic expectation,” Rivera said. “He really wants to do well, and he works at it. He spends a lot of time and effort (on his craft). And when things don’t go right he gets frustrated, which I do appreciate.”
Even though Newton will get that opportunity to rebound from back-to-back poor games against Pittsburgh, he isn’t going to get extended playing time. Unlike the playing time in his two previous games against the Bengals and the Miami Dolphins, he is likely to play less than a quarter of football.
Rivera will get a feel for the game before deciding how long the starters will play against the Steelers. After Wednesday’s walkthrough practice, Rivera indicated he is likely to pull the starters after a couple of series. This will be a good test for those trying to make the team and for the younger players like Newton because the Steelers have a good group of players, Rivera added.
In addition, Rivera has consistently pointed out that the Panthers have some young players, and they are adjusting to the NFL, which contributes to their struggles. But Rivera said there are no excuses for playing poorly.
Newton also admits it is an adjustment from Auburn, where he led the Tigers to a national championship. Some people don’t grasp what being a professional football player means, Newton said.
“You don’t have to report to Mr. Sanders for the literature class,” he said. “Watching third-down blitz pickup is your class. That is the difference. Early in the morning, 7:30 in the morning, you better hope to get breakfast and get some energy because you are going to be in there all day. From 7:30 (a.m.) to about 6:30 (p.m.) that is when everybody else gets to go. Lucky me and all the other quarterbacks, we have to get extra work on staying up on what the defense presents and try to get some clues to take something away.”
Panthers get down to an 80-man roster
The Panthers made several moves to get down to the league-mandated limit of 80 players Tuesday.
Carolina placed starting right guard Geoff Schwartz, receiver David Gettis (torn ACL), tight end Gary Barnidge (fracture ankle) and center Zack William (torn ACL) on season-ending injured reserve.
Schwartz, who injured his hip at Fan Fest, was the biggest disappointment because he was a starter. Rivera said he will see a specialist because Schwartz’s hip hasn’t improved. The 6-6, 331-pound offensive lineman can play every position on the offensive line except center. Last season, he played guard and tackle.
The Panthers also waived injured guard Duke Robinson. Last season, team officials were really high on him. Robinson struggled with weight issues and was suspended the final four games of last season by the NFL because he violated the league’s substance abuse policy.
At training camp, teammates praised Duke for coming to training camp in shape. Rivera said he passed the conditioning test and showed commitment. The previous season, Robinson failed the test and was placed on the physically unable to perform list until he was in shape. But the Panthers had seen enough and decided to go in different direction.
And the Panthers reached an injury settlement with quarterback Tony Pike, who had surgery on his elbow last week. Pike was sixth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Carolina also released long snapper Chris Massey.
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