CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has any resentment toward the New Orleans Saints he isn’t making it public.
Newton downplayed being one of a handful of quarterbacks the NFL said was at the center of the Saints’ bounty scandal. He will face New Orleans on Sunday in Charlotte for the first time since the NFL levied fines and suspensions against the Saints.
“I’m not going to speak on something that was last year,” Newton said, quickly dismissing the topic. “That was last year, and I’m going to keep it at that.”
Newton said the Panthers have plenty enough incentive this week following their season-opening 16-10 loss Sunday to Tampa Bay.
The Panthers were fifth in the league in scoring last season averaging more than 25 points per game, so last week’s dud was particularly difficult to swallow. Newton was 23 of 33 for 303 yards passing but was intercepted twice and the Panthers were held to 10 yards rushing, trying a franchise low.
“If you trying to find some type of edge, each and every week is a game that we have to win,” Newton said. “I don’t think this week is going to be any different. It’s a conference game that we need to win, and that’s our edge right there.
“We don’t need to worry about what they did last year or previous years. It all comes down to how we play Sunday.”
That seems to be the company line this week.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera echoed Newton’s comments, saying of the bounty issue, “I’m just glad it’s over. We’re just going to go forward.”
The NFL suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, members of his staff, several players, fined the Saints $500,000 and stripped the organization of two draft picks for administering a pay-for-pain bounty program.
The league reported Newton was targeted by the Saints along with Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner over a three-year period.
The Saints were called for three personal fouls last season for hits on Newton.
In another incident, Saints safety Roman Harper took a shot at wide receiver Steve Smith after Smith had scored on a touchdown pass and had begun to slow down after crossing the goal line. Harper was fined $15,000 by the league for that hit on Smith.
But even the outspoken Smith bypassed any talk of revenge.
“There’s no added motivation for me,” Smith said. “I go out there with a chip on my shoulder to play well every week. If you’re looking for something more than that from me, it’s not going to happen.”
What the Panthers are motivated to do is play better.
Some of the inherent excitement surrounding the start of the season was flushed away when the Panthers sputtered away a golden opportunity to start the season off right by losing to a Bucs team that went 0-10 down the stretch last season.
They’re home Sunday against the Saints and then Thursday night against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
“There was a lot of disappointment [from fans] and some people might even say it was embarrassing,” Smith said. “Some people might stay at home and watch us on their HDTVs. I don’t blame them. We have to earn respect back from the fans for the high expectations we gave them.”
Newton said the keys Sunday will be starting fast against the Saints and playing together as a team, two things they didn’t do well against Tampa Bay.
The Panthers were shutout in the first half by the Bucs and struggled with penalties and missed blocks throughout the game.
“We are better than 10 points offensively,” Newton said. “If you go back and look at that game, down by down it’s a different person making a mistake. Coach pointed that out, and that can’t happen. If we want to be the team that we know we can be, everybody – all 11 guys – have to be onboard each and every play.”