Fowler: Panthers must ‘C’ it to believe

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comMay 31, 2013 

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton rolls out of the pocket and scrambles from the New York Giants defense during a game in September at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

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.

But he wants to be one. He’s trying to be a more positive, accountable player.

“I recognize – and everyone knows around the league – when you’re a team captain that’s not just a patch on the jersey,” Newton said Wednesday. “You’re holding yourself to a higher standard with being accountable.

“I’m going about it each and every day and trying to make that happen.”

In fact, the Panthers wouldn’t have to push someone else aside for Newton to assume a captaincy role. They could simply add him.

According to an NFL press release from the beginning of last season, 23 teams elected season-long captains in 2012 and nine changed it up weekly.

The Panthers were one of the 23. They had 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 allows six season-long captains, not the five the Panthers traditionally have. A number of teams use all six slots, including New England, Denver, Kansas City, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Arizona.

Some teams add another special teams captain so they can have two on each of the three units. Others have three offensive captains or three defensive captains among the six. The Panthers’ captains are decided by a team vote in late August or early September, once the final roster is set.

Among other logical candidates for captaincy in 2013 besides the five returners would be Ryan Kalil, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams, Luke Kuechly, Charles Godfrey and Johnson (as a permanent addition, not a substitute).

It’s a crowded field. But get this: 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. So some of Newton’s peers are already becoming captains.

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” will come naturally – not this year in my opinion, but likely by 2014.

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