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Finding a silver lining heading into the bye week

Kalil going on IR combined with a really poor start to the season means that expectations for this team going forward are going to be through the floor. Playing without the same pressure to succeed might allow folks like Cam to let up a little bit and play looser. Rivera has said that he thinks Cam is pushing too hard, forcing too many throws and trying to make the big plays.

Drawing on my own experience playing football and other competitive sports, I've been on teams that just haven't won many games. When that happens, it's easy to try and take the team on your shoulders and make the plays that will win the game. It's a feeling borne out of intense competitiveness, but it doesn't work because you end up trying to do too much and not making the easy plays when they're available. It creates a vicious cycle of building frustration that's really difficult to break out of. The only way out is to distance yourself from the outcome of the game, which is antithetical to everything professional athletes have ever been taught; but only once you step back and stop caring quite as much about winning the game can you get back to playing the game for fun.

I see Cam Newton locked in the vicious cycle, and he's playing progressively more poorly because of it. I feel like this injury to Kalil and the bye week allow the Panthers, and Cam especially, a wonderful opportunity to reassess whether their expectations for the season are still realistic. With the understanding that the playoffs are a long shot, the coaches can focus on fundamentals (which they really needed to work on from day 1, but that's a matter of coaching philosophy), and players can really focus on flying around and finding the joy that brought them to football in the first place. Until each player (especially Mr. Newton) can really focus on just doing his job effectively on every down, I don't think that having an ultra-competitive atmosphere in the locker room can benefit the Carolina Panthers.

I think it all goes back to the position Cam has on this team. He's a team leader by default, being the franchise quarterback, but as has been established in the past few weeks, he has an ultra-competitive attitude that he doesn't yet have the maturity to channel when things don't go well. If your best o-lineman has to go on IR, this is as good a time as any. The bye week lets Cam figuratively hit reset on the season, throwing away the astronomical expectations that the team brought on itself and the mistakes of the past five weeks and start from scratch.

He needs to re-install the most fundamental part of playing QB - taking the snap from under center - but he should re-install all of the little things that make him a weapon. Foremost among them is joy. Cam's smile is infectious, and the Panthers need to find joy in football now more than ever.

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