KAPOLEI, Hawaii — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will line up opposite his head coach and offensive coordinator in his second Pro Bowl appearance.
Deion Sanders, the “alumni captain” for the Indianapolis Colts-coached team, took Newton with the third pick during the second night of the Pro Bowl draft on Wednesday – one pick after Sanders took Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck told reporters he hopes he and Newton get on the field at the same time.
“Who knows?” Newton said. “Stay tuned.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his staff are teamed with Jerry Rice’s squad.
Newton seemed to be enjoying himself Wednesday, joking with Sanders during the NFL Network broadcast. Newton brushed off questions about his Pro Bowl experience two years ago.
According to a cbssports.com article quoting anonymous players, Newton angered several players with a standoffish attitude in the 2012 Pro Bowl, prompting them to play with more intensity when Newton entered the game.
“That trip two years ago, we’re going to keep it at two years ago. Nothing good can come from me talking on something’s that old,” Newton said. “This is 2014. I’m going to enjoy myself, have a good time and do what I think I do best, which is play football.”
The NFL made several changes, highlighted by the draft, after the Pro Bowl came under criticism for its quality of play and perceived lack of effort from players.
Newton said it’s hard to straddle the line between having a competitive game and minimizing injury risks for players.
“It’s a physical sport. And it’s hard to simulate something when you’re trying to protect a person’s career. You’re trying to chop a guy or you’re trying to tackle a guy low, horse-collaring a guy,” Newton said. “You don’t want anyone to leave Hawaii injured, that they have to sit out next year. You’ve got to play smart, have fun. But at the end of the day ... you’ve got to be competitive as well.”
Don’t kick it out: Not surprisingly, Panthers special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers and long snapper J.J. Jansen are opposed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suggestion to do away with the extra point.
Proponents of the potential rule change believe kickers – an increasingly specialized position – have made the point-after automatic, and Goodell told the NFL Network the league’s competition committee this offseason will consider abolishing it.
Goodell said one proposal is to make touchdowns worth seven points. Teams could go for an eighth point with a running or passing play, and would have six points if the try was unsuccessful.
There were only four missed extra points – all blocked kicks – in 1,191 tries during the regular season.
“Obviously, the fans and most people think it’s automatic. It’s not,” Rodgers said. “You’ve got to have great operation time between your holder, your snapper and your kicker. Not having that in a game takes a significant part of the game away.”
Jansen said the specialization argument doesn’t hold water.
“Every part of the game has become specialized. Quarterbacks are extremely efficient at what they do. Running backs, we’re here with some of the best corners in the league – Revis Island. They become specialized with what we do. We don’t talk about getting that out of the game,” Jansen said.
“Just because guys have gotten really good at doing it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (to remove it). ... All these Pro Bowl (quarterbacks) having fantastic years, we don’t talk about ‘Let’s take the pass out of the game.’ In fact, it’s more exciting.”
Hawaiian vacation, part deux: Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert has been to Hawaii once before, although this week figures to be more fun. Tolbert and his wife Shianette were in Maui for their honeymoon three years ago when an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, creating high winds and surf in Hawaii.
Tolbert and his wife were staying in a resort in the hills, so they didn’t need to evacuate the property like guests in beachside hotels. But it was still a less-than-ideal honeymoon.
“We went to the beach the first day. Then the second day the earthquake happened. So we couldn’t really do too much after that,” Tolbert said. “Just chilling together, watching TV and calming our parents down.”
Tolbert, who led the Panthers with seven touchdowns rushing and receiving, said he plans to enjoy his second trip to Hawaii.
“I’m loving it, taking it all in, soaking it all up. I was supposed to be (in the Pro Bowl) before, but things didn’t work out my way,” said Tolbert, who was among the leaders in fan balloting last year but didn’t make the all-star game. “I feel like now I’m going to enjoy it all after working my tail off to get back to this point.”