Prisco on Newton: This time, Newton was different

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Prisco sat down with Panthers QB Cam Newton for the first time since releasing his 'Unpopular at the Pro Bowl' piece on Newton late last year. They discuss the Pro Bowl as well as changes he has made this past offseason. He also dishes on some interesting quotes from Ron Rivera I think you find enlightening.

Prisco starts with some overall observations on Newton before vs. now:

More comfortable Newton dials up maturity, dials back aloofness -
He was loose. He was fun. He was engaging. He was far from the aloof, distant player he was said to be at times. If it's an act, he has me fooled -- and that's saying something because I think of myself as a good judge of people.

"I did a lot of reflecting this offseason," Newton said. "I wanted to look at a lot of things. How was I with my teammates? How was I with the media? I know you have a job to do like I have a job to do. It was a time to look and see what I could do better. People have to realize that I am a person too. I play football, so, yes, that makes me different, but I am just like everyone else in a lot of ways. People see things and they misunderstand me a lot of times."

Newton said he went to that Pro Bowl as a rookie as a wide-eyed kid, awed by the players around him. If he offended anybody, he doesn't remember or didn't mean to do so.

"I mean I see Tom Brady and Ray Lewis and all these guys and I'm there doing things with them," Newton said. "And I'm like a young kid. I have my hat turned backwards, so maybe people see me that way and think I don't care. But I love this game and I love the history of the game. And I was in awe when I was there. As far as not signing for a teammate, that isn't going to happen. There are a lot of people asking for stuff to be signed, but when a teammate asks you just do it. I don't know how people got the idea that I was the way they said I was. I don't know what they expected."

So Newton is dispelling the report that he turned down a teammate's request to sign something. That is what really gave Priscoe's original hit piece legs more so than the 'unpopular' and  'rough treatment' rumors. That could be attributed to personality clashes. I would also tell anyone to think twice before brushing off this latest piece as Prisco making amends for some reason. He has no real season to do that and it has not been his MO to date. This piece by Priscoe actually supports my theory that Newton is one of the most misunderstood players in the NFL.

Later in this piece Rivera essentially states what we suspected all offseason and saw backed up in Football Outsiders Almanac stats on the Panthers:

Rivera said the slow start last season was the fault of the staff. "We put too much on the quarterback," Rivera said. "I did a self-scout after our five games, and pulled five games from the previous year and found out we put the ball in the quarterback's hands 33 percent more of the time. So we put more on him. We put more focus and attention on him and got away from the core of what we did the year before. We changed some of the ideas and attitude after that and got back on track."

The Panthers, quite frankly, got too cute. They ran way too much read-option and got away from their running game with play-action passing. Yet Newton ran better when they did get away from it. Why? He scrambled out of pressure, running when he had to, not when it was called.

"We took advantage of what his real strengths are, which is his movement off of the play-action passing," Rivera said. "He has the ability to keep plays alive and throw it down the field and run out of trouble. His most successful runs are off play action when he pulls it and runs. That's when he's most dangerous, when they aren't expecting him to run. We have to limit the hits he takes as well."

So that explains why his yards per rush were better down the stretch though he ran the ball by design less. That is pretty much what we suspected and Rivera now confirms.

On the humorous side, Prisco had some parting advice to Newton and his propensity to run with the football:

I told Newton he would be safer playing it that way (staying in the pocket).

"No, it's more dangerous in the pocket," he said. What? "Tom Brady and Carson Palmer both had knee injuries in there," Newton said.

I reminded him that they were in that pocket a lot more plays than when he was running it last season. I also reminded him that linebackers love to eat up quarterbacks, even big ones like him. "It's how you run," Newton said. "I run differently than I did in college. If it's first-and-10, I won't try and run over a linebacker. If the game is on the line, that's another story."

I should emphasize that is Newton's decides to run over a LB he is one of the few QBs in the league that can actually do it. I love that he is willing to do just that if the game is on the line. It makes me think back to the Atlanta, Seattle and Cowboy's games from last season and those key plays where we didn't simply let Newton run with the ball with the game on the line. I think if we had our season might have turned out a little better.

Overall I thought it was an interesting piece by Prisco and I give him props for being willing and open-minded enough to give a player a chance to change his attitude about him. I still think there will plenty of people who still see Newton for something more sinister than he is, such as his sideline posing with Joe Adams during the 4th quarter of the game against the Bears. (We'll talk more about that later).

So will this translate to anything positive on the field? Only the 2013 season will tell us for sure but I think his teammates will respond to him better. You'll even see more vets not afraid to reign him if he is being goofy, just as Thomas Davis did to cut off the aforementioned posing by Newton and Adams. They know how he is now and even though Davis cut it off I don't think there will anything lasting to it. They better understand Newton these days. My hope is more people realize that going forward as I don't expect Cam Newton to ever stop being Cam Newton.

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