Earlier today Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole posted a fascinating article on Cam Newton's 2011 rookie campaign, where he provides a no-nonsense look into the mind of the Panthers franchise quarterback as he reflects on his record setting first season.
When asked about his propensity to be - as head coach Ron Rivera aptly calls it - "Mr. Mopeyhead" when things didn't go as planned, Cam was very mature and self-critical, answering matter-of-factly:
"I was very immature ... I'll be the first one to tell you, the pouting and the moping, I kind of overdid it. I know that. I was a bad teammate. I shut off to some people who gave unbelievable effort. … That's where I have to mature."
It's very refreshing to see this attitude in a young budding superstar in the NFL. It's even better to see it from the franchise quarterback - the guy who is supposed to be the leader both on and off the field, and the position that 's normally filled with players who look at their standing on the team as one of royalty.
Perhaps the best part of this is the fact that we're reading this self-awareness from our quarterback. It makes me proud as a Panthers fan to see [insert TO voice] my quarterback have this realization about himself, for him to understand that the one thing holding him back from potential greatness is the way he presents himself on the field to his teammates when things go wrong.
Not only is he cognizant of what he's done wrong in 2011, but he's also on the path to fixing the problem. What's going on here is simple - Cam Newton is growing up, and he's doing it much faster than anyone outside of CSR expected.
More quotes and thoughts after the jump...
Newton isn't the only one who came to the stark realization that some things needed to be changed in order for him to have continued success. When asked about Newton's on-field demeanor last season, wide receiver Steve Smith had the following to say:
"He has to realize you can't do it all yourself. It's like when someone drops a touchdown pass at the end of a close game. You can say that play cost the team a chance to win the game, but it didn't cause the team to lose. As you get older in this game, you see how everybody has to do their job and how there are so many plays in a game that affect the outcome. As a competitor, you want the ball in your hands at the end to make the play, but you can't do it all in football. You have to give other people a chance to make a play for you, to help you out."
When questioned about Cam's belief that he was a bad teammate, tight end Greg Olsen shrugged the notion off, adding:
"Cam is not a bad teammate; he's just a young guy learning how tough this game can be."
While the rest of the league will probably take this story and run with it, adding a myriad of "I told you so's" to their already pre-determined opinions that Newton will not succeed in the league, Cam is busy working out preparing for the 2012 season - a season that he is determined to be better than his last, and a season that he is determined will have more successful results in the win-loss column.
When asked how he plans to keep his emotions in check going forward, Newton was clear that while he will remember to not be "Mr. Mopeyhead", he's not going to stop thinking that he should make every single play every single time.The competitor in him won't allow him to do that, and even though he's going to change his approach, he's still going to have the same "I must win every single game" attitude that he's always had.
"I have to have the same mentality, but I have to go about it in a different way ... It's an overall maturity level that has to kick in. It's saying, 'OK, that was two plays ago that you threw that interception, now you have to let that go and get past that.' I can't be moping and crying about making a bonehead play when it was three series ago. That's the thing that I did that has to change."
So what can we expect this year now that Newton has one season under his belt and a new approach to how he handles his business on the field? According to Newton, we should just sit back and watch.
"My fingers are crossed and my knees are on the floor every night just praying and just demanding that people watch the show and see what happens this year. Just watch the show."
As TO would say: Get your popcorn ready! For Panthers fans, 2012 is going to be an exciting year, and I for one can't wait to see it play out.
Hat tip to Fernando De La Cruz for posting the fan shot that led to this article.