Chuck Burton/AP
Chuck Burton/AP

The Maturation of Cam

Training camp tours are full of surprises, and there was a big one in Carolina. Plus, Joe Philbin's knuckles are getting a workout, Devin Hester starts anew in Atlanta and a new NFL practice trend has loudly announced its presence

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — “Can I see you for a couple of minutes before you leave today?”

I looked up, and it was Cam Newton speaking. From my seat in the lobby of the Wofford College student union, just outside the cafeteria that the Carolina Panthers use at training camp here, I was a bit taken aback. It was the first time Newton had spoken to me since Feb. 22, 2011, when he told me in a telephone interview, “I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon,” and I reported it. Newton thought it was a cheap shot for me to report it—more about that in a minute—and so we’d gone into radio silence whenever I was around him since, which wasn’t that often.

This item is about the maturation of a person and a player, and about something I don’t recall ever experiencing covering the league.

After detailing the Newton story, I’ll report on other camp stuff from the week that was, and other current events around the NFL and the Hall of Fame ceremonies, as The MMQB’s camp odyssey continues (Skyline Chili today in Cincinnati!) in the midwest. What’s in the column today:

• In Miami, Joe Philbin’s doing bed check. The players actually like it.
• In Atlanta, it’s really strange seeing Devin Hester in number 17, and not in Bear blue.
• I have an item Rolling Stone will dig. (Does that mean I’m Almost Famous?)
• Also: A “Hard Knocks” preview, with stirring words from mentor-y Steven Jackson.
• And the Pro Football Hall of Fame is changing some eligibility rules. I like the change.
• Last note: When I got to 9,200 words Sunday night, I decided to hold off on including my Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville items, all of which I like. But I rarely write 9,000 words during the season, never mind in early August. So you’ll have to read my Tuesday column to learn the name of the second-best player I’ve seen on my camp tour. On with today’s show.

Newton finished a press conference with the local media 15 or 20 minutes after he approached me initially, and when he finished, I was waiting outside the room. Steven Drummond of the Carolina PR staff found us a room, an auditorium the team uses for meetings at Wofford. He closed the door, and Newton and I stood there together. I wasn’t taking notes in our 20 minutes together, but I remember a lot of what he said.

I don’t want to walk the other way every time I see you,” Newton said. “That’s not what a man does.

He got right to the point. He said most of the people close to him wanted him to never speak to me again. Ignore me. I was one of the haters, so don’t deal with me; just deal with the media who were either fair—in their minds—or consistently supportive. “But I am my own person,” he said. “I think for myself. I make my own decisions. I decided I wanted to talk to you to see if we could work this out. I don’t want to walk the other way every time I see you. That’s not what a man does.”

And I said I wanted to explain to him exactly what happened that day three-and-a-half years ago, when I quoted him accurately after our telephone interview; that way, he could decide for himself if he wanted to ever speak to me again. This was the situation: At the time, two months before the draft, Newton wasn’t doing much press, and I was called by one of his PR people and told that he was going to spend an hour on the phone with selected reporters—four reporters, 15 minutes each. Did I want to be in? Of course, I said. I was the first of the four to talk with him that day, and during the interview, he said the icon and entertainer thing.

I figured there were certain messages about work ethic and image he wanted to get across in the interview, which he did. And I figured I wouldn’t be the only one he said that line to. I just figured if I didn’t use it, and fast, one of the next three interviewers would hear it and use it, somewhere. And so I threw it on Twitter, and said NFL people wouldn’t like to hear it. And it became a cause célèbre when he went to the NFL Scouting Combine a few days later. One quarterback-needy coach high in the draft said the comment totally soured him on Newton, and he caught some crap for it, and I caught some crap for it too, for what some thought was taking a quote out of context.

“I’ve thought about what I’d have done differently,” I told Newton, standing there in the auditorium. But I said we weren’t face-to-face, and maybe if we were I’d have cautioned him about it; I wasn’t sure. But I just figured he’d say it to someone else at some point, and so I used it.

After leading the Panthers to the playoffs last season, Cam Newton's popularity in Carolina has reached new heights. (AP)
After leading the Panthers to the playoffs last season, Cam Newton saw his popularity in Carolina reach new heights. (AP)

Newton looked me straight in the eye and spoke earnestly, with passion. He told me he had some in his support group wanting him to—and this is my word, not his, because I can’t quote exactly what he said—be a brand, a great quarterback with a great image off the field as a multifaceted person. I understood totally. What marketing person or PR person working for a first-round quarterback doesn’t use Peyton Manning as a model? On one hand, Newton said what he said, and I reported it. But in the end, I feel bad that he was branded with those comments because his three years as a player has proven him to be, after some missteps at post-game podiums following losses, a good person and leader.

Then we talked for a few minutes about the perception of African-American quarterbacks. He said he wanted to prove to inner-city kids they can be NFL quarterbacks. Many are very talented at the youth level as quarterbacks, but what hurts are underfunded city football programs and underfunded high school programs with mediocre and undermanned coaching staffs. Equal prospects at a very young age who get great coaching with richer resources end up getting more chances. He said he wanted to be part of changing that.

CAROLINA CAMP REPORT: Peter King on the Panthers

Spur of the moment thought just then. I said: “Russell Wilson wrote something for The MMQB this summer about the history of race in the NFL, and he wrote a lot about the rise of African-American quarterbacks. I’ll send you the link. If you ever want to do something about what you’re talking about with the young African-American quarterbacks, I would love to see you do it.”

We talked a while longer. We were about to walk out, and he looked at me. “Let’s let bygones be bygones,” Newton said, and he stuck out his right hand. We shook.

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183 comments
Fballguy
Fballguy

Speaking of the HOF...What's with the Charles Haley love fest?  What makes his HOF credentials so great? 


Kevin Greene doesn't get nearly the love and his accomplishments dwarf Haley's.  Their careers virtually over lap, both retiring in 99.  Greene was a rookie in 1985 and Haley 1986.  Both are 5 time Pro Bowlers and 2 time first team all pros.  The big difference...Greene was good longer.  Green had 10 seasons of double digit sacks.  Haley 6.  Green had 14 or more sacks in a season five times.  Haley?  Once.  


By the time Haley turned 32, he was a shell of his former self, not having more than 3 sacks in a season for the rest of his career. Greene had 12 sacks his final season at the age of 37 and 15 the season before that.  He had double digit sacks in each of his final 4 seasons....and nearly his final 8 seasons except for 1995 when he only had 9.


Haley was lucky to play on really good teams.  Why does that make him more HOF worthy.  Don't get it at all. 

Fballguy
Fballguy

Devin Hester is a great return man.  One of the best of all time if not the best.  But, I think he's going to have to wait quite a while for the Hall call.  I can think of many more deserving players still on the outside looking in. 

Fballguy
Fballguy

One last thing on Hard Knocks.  Poor Ryan Schraeder #73 of the Falcons.  He unloaded a flurry of punches to the head of #45 Jacques Smith and Smith barely noticed.  I haven't seen such a vicious attack since Ruth Buzzi purse whacked Arte Johnson on Laugh In.

Fballguy
Fballguy

Could they have picked a more boring team for Hard Knocks than the Falcons?  Episode 1 seemed more stiff and rehearsed than any other.  Almost like people were given a script to follow.  If it's any indication of what's to come, this season is not going to be one of the best.  I didn't sense much reality. 

Fballguy
Fballguy

If you read between the lines, you'll notice Peter isn't fawning all over Newton in his story like he usually does for players he really is impressed with.  The matter of fact tone speaks volumes to me.  Or maybe Peter just thinks Newton is still the pouty baby we saw in the press conferences and wants to be as non-offensive as possible here.  Either way...I don't come away too impressed.

Whodunittt
Whodunittt

How can Scam Newton possibly be characterized as mature when his photo shows him donning woman's panties on his head.

BillPetrello
BillPetrello

Peter, I went right to the comment section to say: "I'm done reading your articles."  From your support of Ray Rice to your crazy rant about the Redskins, I am done.  Heck there are better blogs from men AND women about their reactions to football...Bye.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Maybe Cam Newton can present at next year's rookie symposium?

Step One: ditch the entourage.

McBeef88
McBeef88

The Maturation of Cam. Really Peter? The "blanch" part of your Tweet was what was immature, as it did not let Cam's words speak for themselves. Reporting on your private meeting with Cam in the first place and, worse yet, referencing the discussion in your column as "The Maturation of Cam" is as bad as your tweet. Your paternalistic commentaries are fine (I enjoy your approach to reporting), but it pains me to see you sensationalize. And you are not owning up to any of this. I lost a lot of respect for you here Peter. 

dr_morris
dr_morris

Regarding No 7: Jonathan Baldwin had zero chance of making the 49ers this season and by releasing him early in camp, perhaps they were giving him an opportunity to catch on with another club. L'Damian Washington is just another warm body to suit up in the preseason games with zero chance of making the club as well. 

dawnsblood
dawnsblood

No thanks. If more room can be found in the Hall each year then it should be filled with players and coaches. Put more folks in that made a difference on game day. Not folks that made a difference on the bottom line. 


In short, people that made the game exciting not people that made the NFL rich.

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

This is the problem with Peter King's reportage---when he made his snide little presumptuous commentary 3 years ago, he missed out on the fact that in order to truly be a sporting icon, YOU HAVE TO BE A GREAT PLAYER. No one has ever been a credible & lasting sporting icon who was 1)a crap player 2)out of the league because he was a crap player. King's hypothesis that wanting to be an icon was a bad thing was *ludicrous*. I'm beginning to think King & his "NFL higher-up" cronies have all the deep-thinking ability of a snail.

ptsportsfrisco
ptsportsfrisco

Why is it okay for black players to care and support, SPECIFICALLY, black kids?

Then tell me, if a white player said the same thing about SPECIFICALLY supporting white kids, is that equal in terms of racist?



MichaelHeck
MichaelHeck

I struggle with judging a book by its cover…Joe Philbin….I'm rarely inspired by his words and even less by his coaching. If he, somehow, succeeds this year and receives an extension I will still be surprised. Then again, my confidence in Mr. Ross ran its course long ago. While I appreciate Philbin's renewed attention to his players, I think he is a fish out of water. 


I look forward to him reading a spirited response off a card in the locker room after a victory. Oh, those aren't his words, they are Dawn Aponte's! 

MargoLane77
MargoLane77

RE: Politico; MMQB Articles we didn't read: "The Maturation of Cam"

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Almost everyone experiences a "maturation" process and Camster's no exception. A "coming of age?" That's not for everyone.


Kaep Krusader led 49ers offense in two big playoff wins versus talented GB squads, building his reputation largely on run skill. But in his biggest games, SB47 & NFCT'14, when called on to apply his judgment capabilities & passer proficiency, he fired blanks. Until Newton, w/ Rivera's input, matures in the pocket and cuts back on scamper (NFCD'14 v SF: 10 runs (54y), 16-25 (1-2), L 23-10), he won't learn the skills necessary to rise to elite level and lead his teams to victory in the most challenging of circumstances where his feet cannot do the talking (See; Wilson). Pro QB 301.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

plus i wish all these teams would get over spy-gate, hey philly, the reason why you lost was of mcnabb and reid especially on that final drive when they were taking too much time

6marK6
6marK6

Carolina should be dangerous this year. Wow, a quarterback other than Johnny Mazniel getting attention on SI, what is up?

Ciscos
Ciscos

I'm waiting to see how mature Cam is going to be after that first game when the impact of not having any receivers is going to be painfully obvious.

drudown
drudown

@Whodunittt


Another voice heard from the closet Bigot (pun intended) minority in the melting pot of America, whining, it seems, over African-Americans in every imaginable manner (see, e.g., "Tiger not being completely truthful about his affairs tends to 'open the door' on PED use") but never once criticizing our ELECTED OFFICIALS in Congress that have HARMED the People by deliberate inaction under the auspices of (drumroll, please) trying to "obstruct" the progress of the first African-American President. If I thought these faux persons online were any "realer" than the "paid for" partisan charade in D.C., I would touch upon race in America. But here it is just Dark Money polluting the Media, our Free Speech, access to the Courts and system of governance. But please. "Scam" Newton is what we should care about, huh?

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

@ptsportsfrisco It was a fair question and thoughtful response by "blynder." Such an exchange is not the norm today on the cmt-lines. I haven't been given authority as such, but I'm gonna' do it anyway. You both, jointly, get the #1 slot in today's 'Comment Power Rankings.' Peace.

blynder
blynder

@ptsportsfrisco

Because as a general rule, white kids are not struggling, don't have the historical oppression (you know like Jim Crow Laws and such) and our Black and Latino youth grow up with less prospects than white youth.  That is not about individuals (everybody loves the Harlem to Harvard story) but using broad strokes, looking at how large groups of people are doing in comparison to one another. It's also important to talk about the difference between race and class - sometimes they get mixed up.  If we were talking about pure numbers - there are more poor whites than other races; but in terms of relationship to the percentage of the specific population, the percentages are skewed.  


Hope that clarifies.

Wombat
Wombat

@Occam's_Shaving_Cream It's a local version of chili... very finely ground meat, different spices, (heard there's even chocolate and cinnamon in it), and it's intended for use on hot dogs or over spaghetti. It's definitely an acquired taste.

Mike26
Mike26

@KeysSteven Wilson is much more of a game manager with a strong running game and good defense than Kaep/Newton are - especially Newton, who's always had few weapons and until last year, an average defense.

09nikman09
09nikman09

@KeysSteven you're 100% correct. I think if Cam gains more experience in a pro-style system (Shula is phasing out the read option), he can adopt a Luck/Big Ben style of play.


The game vs 49ers, Cam had to run so much because of the lack of offensive talent. Pass protection and run blocking/run game were simply shut down that game. Smith got hurt, and the WRs couldn't gain separation once they doubled Olsen in the 2nd half. Cam actually passed well, going off the eye test, in the 1st half.

blynder
blynder

@KeysSteven

Well P.Manning's skill set didn't fare well against the Seahawks defense last year either! :)  And to be fair, C.Kaeperneck (may have spelled that wrong) was about 6 to 8 inches from winning that game with a pocket pass.  

number18
number18

@Ciscos Don't worry--LiL pete will give you an excuse to use.

Jake_Stevens23
Jake_Stevens23

You know we ranked 29th in passing last year, right? Our new receivers don't have to replace much, and they're a better overall group anyways. If anything our passing will improve quite a bit. Our only glaring weakness is at LT.

Montana-mountainman
Montana-mountainman

@ProfessorGriff @ptsportsfrisco why are you labelling him an "angry white guy" he is asking a legitimate question. There are plenty of poor children in rural areas where are I live that attend underfunded schools and participate in underfunded football programs, who happen to be predominantly white.

Mike26
Mike26

@KeysSteven  You're correct, but nothing could possibly come ahead of MLJ's words - everything he says astounds and educates.  But blynder's is certainly well-done too.  

MoeLarryAndJesus
MoeLarryAndJesus

@KeysSteven @ptsportsfrisco  It wasn't an entirely fair question.  What it was is the kind of question that can only be asked by someone who lives in a bubble and hasn't bothered to educate himself about the history and culture of this country.


Turning a blind eye to reality is never a good idea.  Is it unkind to point that out?  Maybe so, but that's just too bad.

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@Mike26 @KeysSteven Kaep has a pretty good defense as well. I think wilson is much more than a game manager. He makes plays when they are needed to be made. And he played the entire season without his number 1 WR and half the year without his number 2.  Its not like the seahawks are loaded with weapons in the passing game.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

@blynder @KeysSteven Yes, Kaep did come awful close "in his biggest games." Credit where credit's due. And it was Peyton's third SB, among other accolades. A good comparison, career time-line wise, might be Colin vs. pocket passer like A. Dalton. I wouldn't be surprised if 51% chose CK if given the choice. You can guess who I'd tab, in fact, you could book it.

blynder
blynder

@Jake_Stevens23

Blind side?  That's a big weakness, the good thing for C.Newton is his running ability - I wonder how that will impact his "further maturation" as I think he needs to further develop his pocket passing & decision making (only comes with experience right?) and if he's looking over that shoulder...

67raiders
67raiders

@MoeLarryAndJesus @KeysSteven @ptsportsfrisco  Not everyone who IS aware of the history and culture of this country believes that racism flows only one way. The point is totally true that if a white guy set up a "poor white kids" program, it would be ostracized. MLKJr, longed for the day people would be recognized for the content of their character, not skin color. Seems to me he would resent focus on helping blacks because they are black. Period. Hold a camp for or donate to kids in poor neighborhoods, cities, cow-towns the bayou, or elsewhere, but LOSE the racist focus. Poor, as rich and talent and character is COLOR BLIND.


By the MLJ, thanks for turning what was intended to steer the commentary towards civility into an insult-throwing affair. Stay classy. But I do agree, turning a blind eye towards reality is never a good idea. Just ironic that you posted it.


And just to be fair... I don't think that Cam Newton said he's specifically into helping black kids, thought it said "under-resourced". Too lazy to go back to look, and it's the principle that matters anyways!

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@67raiders @MoeLarryAndJesus @KeysSteven @ptsportsfrisco Newton just said he wanted to help kids like him. He never mentioned race. But if people can and are hurt specifically because there race in cases like the drug war why cant someone help because of their race? MLK's words go both ways. We are not in a time when people are judged exclusively for their character. Lets not pretend we are.

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