Cam Newton: Time for Panthers to ‘take back the division’
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — An optimistic Cam Newton says he’s adjusting well to a new offensive scheme and boldly proclaimed it’s time for the Carolina Panthers to “take back the division.”
Wearing a “Change the culture” t-shirt and a “Keep Pounding” hat, an upbeat Newton was budding with enthusiasm on Saturday even after starting right tackle Daryl Williams went down with a knee injury earlier in practice.
In his first football-related interview in six months, Newton set a positive tone for training camp for a team that hopes to recapture the NFC South it won in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Carolina went 11-5 last season, but New Orleans won the head-to-head tiebreaker and took the division title.
Part of Newton’s optimism surrounds the hiring of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of wide receivers D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright.
Newton said Turner has been “extremely easy” to work with and joked that his offense is “Boogie approved.”
The 2015 league MVP said he likes that Turner is open to listening to suggestions about what plays may work best, even to the point to keeping the names of some of the predecessor Mike Shula’s play calls.
“I think the onus is on (Turner) more so than us to take what we have done good and expand on it, rather than just ripping the sheets of paper up and having a this-is-my-way-or-the-highway mentality,” Newton said.
Newton said it didn’t take long to realize Turner has a high football IQ.
But he added that it’s still a little too early to know exactly what to expect from the Panthers offense when the regular season arrives.
“I can’t tell you that, (but) I know that the transition as far as philosophies has almost been as easy as anyone could expect,” Newton said. “He is super relatable and is someone who has been around this league and been around a lot of egos and lot of different players and knows how to adjust. That alone makes my job easy knowing that he is a person who you can go to and say, ‘This is how I feel about certain things.’ And (he’ll say), ‘OK, let’s find out how we can implement it.’ He’s not a guy who is so egotistical who says, ‘No, this play is going to work versus this.’”
Turner has already talked about wanting to improve Newton’s completion percentage.
Newton’s has completed just 58.5 percent of his career passes, but Turner would like him to be above 65 percent.
“That’s a goal of mine and it is certainly attainable,” Newton said.
Newton said that means learning to accept what the defense gives him, even if it means short dump-offs over the middle and to outlet receivers.
“That has to be my mentality,” Newton said. “We have a lot of guys who can take two yards and turn it into 20 yards, or more. But it starts with me and I have to trust those guys and get the ball to them.”
The 29-year-old Newton said he’s feeling healthy heading into the season.
That’s a big difference from last season when he underwent shoulder surgery and missed all of OTAs and minicamp and a large portion of training camp undergoing rehab.
“It was very big for me making the proper steps this offseason knowing that I am full go,” Newton said. “My body feels great and I always have to mention to TD (linebacker Thomas Davis) that I even look great. I am in a position where I am all smiles.”
Newton also addressed new owner David Tepper, teasing that “I’m up for an upgrade” after seeing he paid $2.2 million to purchase the team from founder Jerry Richardson.
“The excitement is something we all should get prepared for knowing we have a lively owner,” Newton said.
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