Cam Newton: Everything is still possible for Panthers

QB spent bye week relaxing, reflecting, evaluating himself as a leader

jperson@charlotteobserver.comOctober 18, 2012 

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Carolina Panthers (1) quarterback Cam Newton looks to pass to a receiver during fourth quarter action vs the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 16-12. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

  • Cowboys at Panthers 1 p.m. (WCCB)

— Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had an eventful bye week.

Newton visited a haunted house, rode Go-Karts, went to a movie and played video games – “a lot of video games,” he said Wednesday.

It all sounded fun and relaxing – except the time Newton spent reflecting on the first five games of the season.

But Newton said his self-evaluation was instructive. Newton, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011, said he realized he’d gotten away from some of the small things that made him successful, and had a talk with his father about being a leader when times are tough.

Newton also said he returned from the long weekend confident the Panthers (1-4) still have plenty to play for, although the turnaround has to start Sunday against Dallas.

“I think it’s a big challenge for everybody to see what we can do because everything is still possible,” Newton said. “The season is far (from) a wash. It’s time for us to prove it. There are a lot of expectations going into this season. And for us to get the vibe going and pick up the vibe for this whole season, it’s just going to have to start this game.”

Newton is off his record-setting pace from his rookie season, which began with back-to-back 400-yard passing games in losses to Arizona and Green Bay. He’s the NFL’s 23rd-ranked quarterback with a passer rating of 80.9, and his four touchdown passes are tied for fewest in the league.

Newton failed to deliver with the game on the line in the Panthers’ past two losses. His fumble near the end of the Atlanta game cost the Panthers a first down that likely would have sealed a victory, and he skipped a pass at the feet of tight end Ben Hartsock in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in a 16-12 loss to Seattle.

Newton, part of three national championship teams in college, had not experienced losing until the Panthers’ 6-10 finish his rookie year. He said that during the bye week he talked to his father, Cecil, about dealing with adversity.

“One thing he said was it’s easy for a leader to stand out when you’re 4-1,” Newton said. “But it takes a courageous leader to stand up and still lead the troops to victory when you’re 1-4.

“Looking back at my career, it’s easy for a person just to say, ‘Yeah you won.’ But I think I got kind of veered off of what it took for me to get to that level. Just the small things, preparing for each and every game, valuing each and every possession.

“And at the end of the day, playmakers are going to have to make plays. When that play allows for something to happen, it’s not a time for somebody to clutch up and go in a shell. It’s time for the flower to grow.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said last week he thought Newton was pressing against the Seahawks, trying to force throws downfield instead of hitting open receivers underneath. Newton completed 41.4 percent of his passes (12 of 29) for 141 yards against Seattle – both career lows.

“When you look at his play there’s been some inconsistency,” Rivera said Wednesday. “He can get hot and you see those flashes of him doing those things and then something will happen that won’t be as consistent or right along the lines of what you need.

“That’s what we’re really looking for, not just from him but from the team as a whole.”

The Panthers will try to snap their three-game losing streak against the league’s No. 1 pass defense. The Cowboys (2-3) allow 181.6 passing yards per game, and have one of the top pass-rushers in linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Ware, who has six sacks in five games, had 19.5 last season when he finished second behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen, who had 22.

“They feed off the pass rush,” said Newton, who called Ware one of the best defensive players in the league.

“We’ve just got to control that, chip him as much as we can because it’s easy for them to dictate to an offense to get them in obvious passing situations. That’s what we can’t do,” Newton said. “We’ve got to be very balanced when we’re facing a defense like this and score points.”

Person: 704-358-5132; Twitter: @josephperson

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