CHARLOTTE — And now, Cam Newton, here comes a real challenge.
Sure, the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick set a league record for a rookie quarterback in his professional debut by throwing for 422 yards and two touchdowns in a loss at Arizona.
And yes, the Heisman Trophy winner led Auburn to the national championship over Oregon last winter.
For Newton to complete a brilliant personal trifecta, what does he have planned against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers?
The defending Super Bowl champion Packers.
Newton laughed at the question, flashed his engaging smile.
“I don’t go into each game trying to top the last game because if I go into it like that, well, my man Tom Brady takes the whole prize,” Newton said. “What he did a couple of days ago was nuts.”
Newton was referring to Brady’s 517-yard, four-touchdown performance Monday night against Miami that capped an impressive weekend for quarterbacks all across the league.
The difference, of course, is the football world has come to expect that from Brady, not from a rookie making his first start, and certainly not one who’s mechanics were so heavily questioned.
Newton’s outing against Arizona was also stunning because he had only six weeks to learn the offense after the NFL lockout ended, and because he hadn’t shown similar poise in the pocket during the preseason. But he handled Arizona’s extensive blitz package extremely well, getting the ball out on time with only one major miscue — on an interception into double coverage.
•LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has left the team following the death of his mother.
Urlacher’s mother, Lavoyda, died unexpectedly at her home in Texas, the team said in releasing a statement from their veteran leader.
“My first priority right now is to be with my family as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest,” Urlacher said.
LAS VEGAS — NBA players will remain unified and calm in what could be a lengthy pursuit of a labor agreement, union president Derek Fisher vowed Thursday.
About 40 players got an update on collective bargaining talks from Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter in what Fisher described as “a very colorful and engaging meeting” at a casino. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith also spoke to the players, who were mostly in town to play in an Impact Basketball academy league.
“There is not the fracture and the separation amongst our group that in some ways has been reported,” said Fisher, the Los Angeles Lakers point guard. “We just want to continue to reiterate that point.”
• DENVER — Wilson Chandler will have some company in China this season. Fellow Denver Nuggets free agent J.R. Smith is following him overseas.
Another teammate, Ty Lawson, is taking his game abroad as well, electing to play in Lithuania.
The NBA owners and players are divided over a salary cap structure and have made no significant progress in talks to end the lockout.
The Finnish Flash is rolling into his 40s with the Anaheim Ducks.
Teemu Selanne agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract to return to the Ducks on Thursday after the 41-year-old right wing decided his surgically repaired knee will hold up for his 19th NHL season.
Selanne shows few signs of slowing down after nearly two decades as an elite NHL scorer. He finished eighth in the league last season with 80 points, the third-best season in league history for a player past his 40th birthday.
LEMONT, Ill. — Feeling as though he had nothing to lose, Justin Rose put himself in position for a big gain with his best round of the year Thursday in the BMW championship.
Rose made birdie on half of his holes at Cog Hill, a tough course that played even longer in chilly conditions, giving him an 8-under 63 and a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Mark Wilson.
“Didn’t expect that going out there today,” Rose said. “I looked to the weather, looked at the temperature, and I thought today was going to be a day to hang in there. Little did I know I was about to play so well — certainly my best round of the year by a long, long way. And could have been top five, top 10 rounds I’ve ever played for sure.”