Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton couldn’t help but laugh at the conspiracy theories that were floated after his benching last week at Seattle.
Newton said rumors that he’d broken curfew or visited an after-hours club while the team spent a week in northern California were nothing more than “falsified stories.”
Nope, this really was about a tie, Newton said.
“I violated the wardrobe (policy) and that’s it,” Newton said Thursday. “You don’t have to dig into certain stories that [I] violated curfew, was out at a club, somebody was caught in the room.”
Newton said he still stands by coach Ron Rivera’s decision to sit him for the first series against the Seahawks for his failure to wear a tie for the team’s charter flight from San Jose to Seattle the day before the game.
Newton knew the policy – he’d been called on it at least once previously – but showed up in a turtleneck and jacket, prompting Rivera to pull him off the team bus and confront him.
“That’s just a warning for everybody,” Newton said. “And at no point in time or even still do I think I’m above the law. I never thought that. I’m not that type of player. A lot of people might think that from the outside looking in. It doesn’t bother me because they don’t know me.
“For anybody’s who’s ever known me or was on my team, they would know this situation could have been prevented because of my decision.”
It has been a difficult season for Newton after his MVP campaign a year ago.
He was battered by several helmet-to-helmet hits in a season-opening loss at Denver and sustained a concussion a few weeks later when he was blasted by Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones after Newton slowed up near the goal line to showboat.
Newton’s passing numbers have fallen off precipitously. He’s the league’s 27th-ranked passer, behind the likes of Denver first-year starter Trevor Siemian, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
Newton often says the most important stat is wins. The Panthers (4-8) have fallen well short in that department, as well.
Trailing by three games in the NFC South with four to play, the Panthers have all but been eliminated from the postseason. Barring a miracle, Newton and his teammates will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“It’s demoralizing no matter what your success rate is. Coach, as well as (general manager Dave) Gettleman, always talk about sustaining success year in and year out,” Newton said. “We have to find ways to do that. When we don’t do that, then that’s a problem and that’s an issue.”
Despite the team’s struggles, Newton says he hasn’t seen anyone mailing it in during practices this week. The Panthers will try to avoid going 0-4 against the AFC West on Sunday when San Diego (5-7) visits Bank of America Stadium.
“We’ve set a standard here and (the losing) is unacceptable. I’ll be the first to tell you,” Newton said. “But you’ve still got guys that’s giving unbelievable effort, contrary to certain people’s belief.”
Newton’s critics have been out in force of late.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman last week said the Panthers’ poor season was karma for Newton grabbing a Seattle 12th-man flag from a fan following the Panthers’ playoff win in January.
This week Sherman said he agreed with Rivera’s decision to bench Newton, telling Seattle reporters “you’ve got to hold everybody accountable the same.”
Newton says he’s never going to please everyone – and he’s done trying.
“If I was trying to impress every single person that thought I was an *******, then I would be dreaming. I’m me,” he said. “If that was my way of living, trying to make this person happy, make that person happy, do this and do that, and (those who) say, ‘Well, he just don’t get it.’ I’m not living for the people like that.”