CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton said he’s down, not out.
Some of the swagger has have been knocked out of Newton, whose behavior is being questioned by teammates and pundits. He needs to rebound from perhaps his worst game as a pro. Newton’s individual performances – a 58 percent completion rating with four TDs and five interceptions – have been disappointing after a sensational rookie campaign.
And the odds are against his 1-4 Panthers making the playoffs.
“There are a lot of things I could have done better to make a bigger impact on this football team,” Newton said Wednesday.
For Newton, Carolina’s bye week probably couldn’t come at a better time.
The quarterback said he is using the break to do some self-scouting and “get back to the basics.” His focus is on protecting the football, working on his mechanics and better understanding his reads.
He said one thing he won’t change is his approach to the game, although his father Cecil Newton would like to see him handle himself better following a loss.
Newton said he may not always handle situations the way people want him to and insists, “What I’m not going to be is what you want me to be.
“I am who I am and I know what got me to this point.”
Cecil Newton agrees with his son on that point. He doesn’t think Cam deserves criticism for appearing distressed after a loss.
“He’s probably not dealing with it the best way in terms of the way the public sees it, and some people see it is as immature,” Cecil Newton said. “Cam is an intense player who’s committed his whole heart to winning. I think the immature action is the opposite. If Cam didn’t care that’d be immature and cause for concern.”
What does bother Cecil Newton a little is how his son has handled losing when talking to the media in postgame press conferences.
That’s something he said he’s already talked to him about during his semi-regular Tuesday conversions about football and life.
“You have to table it,” Cecil Newton said. “It’s OK to be dejected, but not at the expense that the media can’t do their job. And I think he did a better job of doing that after the Seattle game.”
Of course, all of that talk would be for naught in the Panthers were winning.
For the second straight year the Panthers are 1-4 under Newton, although this year certainly feels more discouraging given the lofty expectations.
Since 1978, 156 teams have begun the season with that record with only seven – less than five percent – reaching the playoffs, according to STATS LLC. And things just got tougher on Wednesday when three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil was lost for the season due to a foot injury.
Newton’s stats through five games aren’t all that different than his totals through five games last year.
But numbers are one thing.
The eyeball test is quite another.
And right now Newton doesn’t look particularly comfortable or sharp running the offense. He one-hopped a pass to wide open tight end Ben Hartsock in the end zone on a key fourth down play in Sunday’s 16-12 loss to the Seahawks.
“I pride myself on being very prepared and being able to do things when my number is called,” Newton said.
And while the quarterback hasn’t had much success this season, Cecil Newton said his son “is too big of a competitor not to figure it out” and there’s no doubt he’ll be back making plays soon.
“He’s going to work hard until it’s fixed,” Cecil Newton said. “He’s always done that.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton is staying locked on receivers too long and not checking down quick enough. And he said on the read options he’s keeping the ball too often instead of giving it up to the running backs.
“He’s trying to make too many plays on his own,” Rivera said.
Jake Delhomme, who started seven seasons at quarterback for the Panthers, knows the feeling. He believes Newton might be trying to do too much.
In his first season with the Panthers, Delhomme took the Panthers to the Super Bowl. The following year Carolina, a heavy favorite in the NFC, lost Steve Smith to a broken leg in the season opener and began the season 1-7.
“I’m thinking, man what am I doing wrong?” Delhomme said. “You find yourself preparing as hard you can, watching as much film as you can and then you’re like, `Why isn’t coming through during the game?’ It just eats you up. It tears you apart. But finally I realized I was trying to do too much. You have to trust what you do and not try to do too much.
“There’s a fine line there,” he said.
Delhomme said he’s met Newton once and said there is tremendous pressure on Newton to carry the small-market franchise.
“They’ve sort of hung the moon on Cam in Charlotte,” he said. “The expectations on him to lead this franchise are incredible. We have to remember he’s 23 years old. He’s still a kid.”
And the “kid” – though wobbling badly – is confident he’ll bounce back.
“We are going through trying times as a team right now and trust me when I tell you things will get better,” Newton said. “There’s a brighter day ahead.”