NFL: Cam’s transition
NEW ORLEANS ó Cam Newton wore a navy blue suit with a bright orange tie ó his old Auburn colors ó as he formally received one more national award for his extraordinary 2010 college season.
The NFLís top overall draft choice by Carolina could not have worn official Panthers gear to the Manning Award ceremonies on Friday even if he wanted to because of the leagueís ongoing lockout. Still, he spoke confidently about the work heís putting in on his own to get ready for his first pro season.
Being barred from working at team head quarters with his new coaches while NFL labor strife drags on is ěnothing that Iím worried about right now,î Newton said.
ěOne thing that I am worried about is to try to focus on learning as much as I can come time that the lockout is lifted,î Newton continued, adding that he had a chance to get a copy of the Carolina play book when the lockout was briefly lifted by a judge on April 29.
ěItís a lot of material that I do not know, but each day Iím going in and learning something,î Newton said. ěSo by the time … the lockout is lifted and I get a chance to talk to (offensive coordinator Rob) Chudzinski and (quarterbacks coach Mike) Shula and meet back up with the team, Iíll be on top of my game.î
Named for former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, the Manning award is given annually to the nationís top college quarterback.
Newton, who also was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, flew in to pick up his award from Bradenton, Fla., where heís been working out at the IMG Institute and refining his game with former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.
Newton said heís been starting his days around 7 a.m. and often not finishing up until around 7 each night. He begins with treatment for any soreness lingering from previous workouts. His days also include conditioning and at least an hour or two of work with Weinke, a former Panther himself.
Manning, who also attended the ceremony, said he believes Newton is a ětremendousî athlete with the requisite motivation to be successful in the NFL. Yet Manning, speaking from his own experience as a pro and from following the careers of his former Super Bowl MVP sons ó Peyton and Eli ó said itís hard to predict how long it will take for Newton to fulfill his promise. He added that it might take longer than usual because of the lockout.
ěItís unfortunate for Cam and other quarterbacks who went in the first round, if (their teams are) counting on them to play,î Manning said. ěChances are itíll delay their time to play. Itís always tough to throw a rookie in, even more so to throw him in without having these spring minicamps and workouts.î
In the long run, though, Manning said his expectations for the 6-foot-5, 248-pound Newton would be as high as anyoneís.
ěHeís got great size. Heís got everything you want,î Manning said. ěHe had one of the most phenomenal senior years. That doesnít mean anything except that heís got the talent. The main thing is, somebodyís got to want to be good and work at it, and he seems to have a really great work ethic. Thereís no reason he wonít be an outstanding player. It may not happen in Year 1. You donít know when itís going to happen. A lot of times, when you get picked first in the draft, youíre going to a team thatís not too good.î
At Auburn, Newton took snaps out of the shotgun in a spread offense that gave him numerous opportunities to both run and pass. He threw for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 20 more in the Tigersí 14-0 national championship season.
In the NFL, heíll be taking more snaps under center and probably scrambling less.
ěI donít think itís going to be a problem for me. I think itís just timing more than anything,î Newton said. ěJust repetition as far as me knowing what I have to do, knowing the assignment, the alignment and what everybodyís doing on that particular play.î