Following an announcement of his charitable intentions Thursday at a private event, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton addressed two topics that have caused consternation in his new city:
The supposed “Madden curse” (he’s not worried about it) and Newton’s view on whether Charlotte is metropolitan enough to keep a sports superstar engaged.
Newton, the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 who was the Rookie of the Year, is the city’s first mega-star in a team sport since the Hornets’ Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning were filling up the Charlotte Coliseum.
Under the rookie wage scale included in the new CBA that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson helped negotiate, Newton has three years remaining on his rookie contract worth a guaranteed $22 million. The Panthers also hold a club option for 2015 when Newton would make about $14 million, according to NFLPA estimates.
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But sports talk radio in Charlotte this week was filled with chatter about whether Newton, an Atlanta native who has endorsement deals with Under Armour, Gatorade and GMC, will stick around or bolt for a bigger market when his rookie deal expires.
Speaking to reporters after his charity event, Newton said he likes the fact that he has a chance to put his stamp on the Charlotte sports scene.
“There’s just so much on the rise, with what Charlotte is about to become,” Newton said. “We have minor league baseball that’s up and coming. The Bobcats, a professional NBA team. NFL team. So it’s on the up and up is basically what I’m trying to say. This is the peak of time that you want to make an impact in the city.
“It’s not like Atlanta. It’s not like Miami. It’s not like Los Angeles. I understand that and I know that. But it’s one of many cities in the nation that is on the rise.”
Cover curse: Newton grew up playing EA Sports’ Madden NFL video game. So he’s honored to be in the running for the cover, regardless of the supposed curse that has haunted many of the former cover boys. Newton said being on the cover is “what you make it.”
“Of course, it would be a big goal for me – if I’m on it or I’m not, just being mentioned,” Newton added. “I always grew up playing video games and playing Madden football. Just having your name mentioned in the voting, I’m happy with that.”
In the online fan balloting on ESPN.com, Newton is paired against San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis in the semifinals. Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson are the other candidates.
Linebacker Jordan Senn, a proven special teams player who performed well as a starter last season, signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $700,000. Senn, 27, an unrestricted free agent, tweeted last week he was returning; the Panthers made it official Thursday.
Senn, one of the smallest linebackers in the league at 5-11 and 230 pounds, started seven games in 2011 and finished with 73 tackles, including 14 in back-to-back wins against Houston and Tampa Bay.
Senn also recorded 11 special teams tackles, which ranked second on the team behind Jason Williams’ 15.