On Wednesday, Cam Newton compared his growth as an NFL quarterback to a smart phone’s software update.
He slides to unlock, goes to settings, presses update software, and there is the latest version of the Carolina Panthers starter.
It’s not necessarily that Newton, 24, has grown as much as he simply has updated.
“We all have smart phones, and as a human I think we all need updates as well,” Newton said. “As we go through so much as a team, go through so much as a person, you understand and learn from the mistakes.
“When I say software update, I just press the install button. I don’t press ‘cancel’ or ‘remind me tomorrow.’ I press install, and hopefully that’ll take care of me.”
Newton plans to update his operating system before Sunday’s NFC playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, his first postseason game as a professional. But he and coach Ron Rivera made it clear this isn’t the first time Newton or the Panthers have been in need-to-win situations.
The two offered up close wins against the 49ers, Patriots, Dolphins, Saints and Falcons this season as proof Newton and the team can rise to the occasion.
It hasn’t always been that way for Newton in the NFL. His four fourth-quarter comebacks this season were double his previous career total – one during his rookie season against Jacksonville, another last season against Philadelphia. Carolina, under the leadership of Rivera and Newton, was 2-12 during the past two seasons in games decided by seven points or fewer.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Why you didn’t have that mindset two years ago?’ It’s trial and error,” Newton said. “When you go through a lot with so many different people, you understand who these guys are and what they can do and what they bring to the table.”
During his third year, Newton is showing the type of big-game ability he displayed at Auburn that helped him go No. 1 overall in the draft. Among the attributes the Panthers coaches saw in Newton at Auburn: he was better under center than in the shotgun, he was a pass-first quarterback, and that he performed well in major college games.
Rivera and the coaching staff heard stories of Newton rallying his teammates at halftime of the Tigers’ 2010 game against Alabama, down 24-7 at halftime. Inside the locker room he took accountability, then he challenged himself and his teammates to play better during the second half, Rivera said. Auburn won 28-27.
“Probably the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is one of the things that we asked ourselves before we drafted him,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “It got pretty big his (junior) year and he had only played one year of college football, and the bigger it got the better he played. So that was one of the things we took into consideration, and I’ll make sure I remind him of that during this week.”
Newton said he can feel the excitement in the city this week. When he first came to Charlotte, he saw more Giants and Redskins flags and decals on cars than those belonging to the home team.
But even before Bank of America Stadium shook at the end of the Saints game Dec. 22, and before fans lined up around the stadium to greet the newly crowned NFC South champions two weeks ago, Newton frequently would spend a portion of his news conferences talking about how great the fans have been and how much the Panthers winning means to the Carolinas.
“It’s a lot of people that give support when you’re out, when you’re pumping gas, grocery shopping or just eating,” Newton said. “It’s something that I haven’t seen ever since I’ve been here. We owe to ourselves, to the people who have supported us since Day 1, and we’ll do our best to prepare and put on a great performance come Sunday.”
But for all the excitement around the team’s first playoff game in five seasons, Newton still tried to keep perspective. A division title is nice, a home playoff win would be better and past that …
“I feel as if I haven’t achieved anything worth mentioning yet,” Newton said. “Those things that I really want, that everyone has set forth before this season, is all within reach.
“Everyone talks about the great season that (I) and other players on this team have had, but I think we all come to each other and say nothing is worth mentioning unless we have something that we can all share with each other for years and years to come.”
Newton is charging.
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