CHARLOTTE — I dont care if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wears a towel over his head. Ive never had much interest in mens headwear.
I dont really care where Newton sits on the bench. He should have watched his teammates after he was removed from the New York Giants game last week. But the issue isnt terribly important.
Celebrating when your team is getting kicked is crazy. But Ive beaten the subject into the ground. It, too, is less than monumental.
In Charlotte and in every other NFL and college town Ive been in we tolerate and forgive our quarterbacks perceived shortcomings when he wins.
But when he stops winning he becomes an instrument of evil, as former Panther quarterback Jake Delhomme, who helped the Carolina Panthers to their only Super Bowl, could attest.
Theres only one way a quarterback who becomes an instrument of evil can again become beloved he has to win.
If Newton leads Carolina to an upset of undefeated Atlanta on the road in his hometown Sunday, all will be forgiven.
I mean, does the guy look good beneath a towel or what?
Thats all it will take. Thats all it will ever take.
Newton spoke to the media Wednesday. He stood behind a lectern and made more eye contact than is his custom and was more talkative and was less sad and less morose.
Sometimes hes so glum at news conferences - and Im not talking news conferences after a loss - that I want to buy him a get-well card and get everybody to sign.
The lone issue Newton avoided Wednesday, and pretended not to know about, was the much-publicized advice Steve Smith gave him late in the Giants loss. Essentially, Smith told him to stop sulking.
Smith talked to reporters about the issue last week. Wednesday Cam Day was the first access the media has had to Newton since the incident.
In response to my question, the second question about the subject, Newton said: You all been getting some information that I aint getting. Yall scaring me. I dont know what yall heard, but as far as me and Smitty talking, I dont know you if yall trying to come up with a story or a story has already (been) set.
Look. Me and Smitty are on good terms and thats my teammate. I look up to Steve Smith, so if you all want to write anything about it (you) must note that hes going to talk to me after this meeting.
That Newton did not want to discuss the six-day old issue was not important. Whether hes gregarious or glum is not important. How he reacts when hes out of the game is still not terribly important.
Whats important is simple: How far can he take this team?
I dont know if Newton is a conventional leader. Ive never been in a huddle with him. Im in the locker room only when the media are allowed. To assume that what we see is business as usual is make-believe.
Is Newton a quarterback who, with a word or a look, can take teammates to a place they couldnt otherwise go?
Or is he a player who leads and inspires by running 40 yards on an option, and by rolling away from certain tackles and finding Smith deep or Greg Olsen over the middle?
If the Panthers are to accomplish anything this season, Newton has to be good, and he might have to be better than that.
The rest is nothing more than filler between games.
When Newtons team wins, the accolades will flow. When it doesnt, the criticism will.
Thats part of the job description. He was the first pick in the 2011 draft, the only No. 1 overall pick in Panthers history.
Newton is the face of the franchise.
Do you really care if its covered by a towel?