While I'm sick of the 'slump' talk regarding Cam, Kent Babb of The Washington Post made a few good points about his demeanor. He also did some extensive research on Newton's off-season and past which provided some insight into our QB's psychology as a competitor and the strides he made as a leader, teammate and friend. Overall, it was a very nice piece on Cam -- worth the read.
“My son felt like he was drafted No. 1 overall to win games,” the quarterback’s father, Cecil Newton, says, “to be responsible, to take the burden that, when they didn’t win, it was his fault.”
The ball flew off the bat, and the center fielder jerked into motion. Newton was maybe 11 years old then, his father remembers, already his church softball team’s most athletic player.
In this game, his team entered the final inning with a 7-5 lead. Young Cam tracked the ball to deep center, reaching for the catch — but the ball sailed past his glove, rolling to the fence. The bases cleared, and Cam’s team lost. Afterward, he was inconsolable. “You would’ve thought I sawed his leg off — without anesthesia,” Cecil Newton recalls.
Even then, his father says, Cam took losses personally. If he lost a push-up contest against his dad, he pouted and went quiet. If Cecil ran the 4½-mile course faster than his younger son, the boy scanned his mind for answers. He wanted to disappear, wrapping himself in the darkness and quiet.
“If he didn’t win, it was going to be a bad day,” Cecil says.
Years later, this wouldn’t change. Last season, Newton appeared petulant. When he threw interceptions or made the wrong read or forced a throw or missed a receiver, he retreated to the Panthers’ sideline, found a solitary spot on the bench and wrapped a white towel around his head. He was 23, the center of attention in a 73,000-seat stadium, and inside the towel, he at least could pretend it was dark and quiet.
“You just feel like gratification is going to be instant and things are going to go according to your script,” Cecil Newton says. “And things don’t always go that way.”
Success had always come easily, though. He was a high-school all-American, signed with Florida and spent two seasons there. He then won a junior-college national championship at Blinn College and finished his career at Auburn — with a BCS championship and the Heisman. His college career had been defined by accolades but also by constant movement. Always his team’s most important player, he came to believe only he was responsible for wins and losses.
“He doesn’t really know what it’s like to have teammates and guys you can count on,” Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross says.
Newton returned to Atlanta, where he had grown up, and tried to forget. He popped in “The Nutty Professor,” one of his favorites, and laughed at jokes he already knew.
The weeks passed, and he grew tired of the distractions. Ignoring the sour taste of the 2012 season wouldn’t erase it; only eliminating its reoccurrence would make it disappear. And so when he ran out of comedies, he began watching replays of his news conferences, wincing sometimes at what he saw.
Newton spoke with his father about what he could’ve done differently, on and off the field. If someone refused to criticize him, he pressed for bluntness.
“He made himself available to address some of the perceptions that ‘SportsCenter’ was tagging him with,” Cecil Newton says. “He probably reached out to not only me but other people: ‘What did you see? What was your perception? How would you have addressed it?’ ”
Newton gave up all meats but fish and seafood. He thought about body language and his words and how he dressed. He meditated. He hired a personal trainer, rising at 6 a.m. even on weekends and on vacation, asking his father to join him on the beaches of Panama City for leapfrogs and sand drills, then beginning another session at 3 p.m.
“My hips and butt and waist stayed sore for 10 days,” Cecil says now.
Cam worked on footwork and decision-making. He centered workouts on muscle groups and meals on fueling his body. He thought back on lessons he had learned from George Whitfield Jr., a private quarterback instructor who worked with him before the 2011 draft; Whitfield had talked about fundamentals and the belief that, regardless of Newton’s speed, he could be a passer like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. He practiced ball handling, keeping his eyes downfield, manipulating defenses by directing his offensive linemen into place. He worked on strengthening his legs, which power the throws and reduce inaccurate passes. He surrendered himself to patience; rather than run at the first sign of a hole, representing a feeling he is his team’s only chance at success, he would wait.
“You don’t have to yank the rip cord every time [a defender] gets five feet away,” Whitfield says, recalling a lesson he repeated often to Newton nearly two years ago.
When he rejoined his team last spring, other players noticed a change. Newton smiled during practices and was authoritative in the huddle. He showed a rookie’s enthusiasm, only he was relaxed and experienced. He learned to trust his teammates, and in return, they renewed their trust in him.
“There’s a lot of guys in here who don’t want anything from him,” Gross says, “other than just to be buddies and to support each other.”