It’s all about comfort for Cam Newton.
Whether it’s his clothing line or slimming down 12 pounds during the offseason or entering his third season with familiar faces on the offensive coaching staff, the quarterback wants to be cozy.
After Wednesday’s minicamp practice, the Panthers’ starting quarterback said he was comfortable with offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey – who were both promoted when Rod Chudzinski left to become the Cleveland Browns coach after two seasons – while both new and old pieces of the Panthers’ offense are falling right into place.
“I think it’s a credit to what Shula has been doing and also Ken Dorsey,” Newton said. “Every offensive coach that we have, they’ve spent a lot of time with trying to get everybody on the same page to do the things that they’re comfortable and do the things they’re good at doing.”
Newton said this offseason is the time to “perfect our craft” going into Year 3 with most of the same core players and coaches.
In his place is Shula, who has simplified some of the terminology in the huddle. Newton gave an example of a new play call to reporters.
“Twins Right, Key Left, 631 Smash M sounds completely different than Twins Right Tampa,” said Newton, comparing a call that formerly signified the formation, protection, pass concept and backfield action with the new terms.
“It comes out your mouth faster. You get in the huddle, it’s the same exact play. Everyone knows that.
“It’s not tricking ourselves. We don’t want to trick ourselves, we want to trick the defense. It’s not saying a whole novel, it’s not saying a riddle either. It’s calling a play, executing it and performing.”
Newton said the key is getting the running game involved early. With a backfield consisting of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, Newton still led the team in rushing in 2012 with 741 yards.
Some of that had to do with Williams’ demotion midway through the season, as well as Stewart missing seven games due to ankle injuries. But no matter starting positions or health, the rushing attack promises to look like the traditional style that the Panthers played during the second half of last season.
“I think last year or the years’ past, and I don’t want to dwell on that during the interview , but the success for the Carolina Panthers has been getting our running backs involved in the game early and letting those guys do what they do,” Newton said. “Everyone knows we have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but for us to be successful, I feel and everyone feels on the offensive side of the ball that we have to run the football, that we will run the football.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera agreed, saying not only does he want to get the running backs involved, but keep them involved throughout the game.
“I think with (Newton’s) ability to get the ball downfield, it’s going to open up things underneath,” Rivera said. “With his ability to run, it’s going to make people hesitate and that’s where you can see the effectiveness of the running backs.”
One of those downfield threats is newcomer Ted Ginn Jr. The former 49ers receiver signed a one-year deal with the team, and he has shown speed that was lacking from the Panthers’ wide receivers the past two seasons.
He and Newton are still developing an on-field rapport that will make each one comfortable with the other. At one practice recently Ginn outran one of Newton’s deep passes, a sight that embarrassed the former offensive Rookie of the Year.
“So I told him, I said, ‘Ted, from now on you will never outrun my football,’ ” Newton said. “If y’all see a pass and it’s overthrown and No. 19 is the intended receiver, just know that it’s pride more than anything with him. He will not outrun my football.”