Cam Newton is officially the leader of the Carolina Panthers. As he steps into his fourth season under center, the crown has officially been placed upon him, so every action he takes on and off the field will have an impact.
When he stepped onto the practice field for OTAs on Wednesday, two months after he underwent ankle surgery, he made a bold statement to his teammates. We are one.
Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer:
After most of his teammates had already arrived Wednesday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stepped out of a golf cart and walked out to the practice fields with a noticeable limp.
Newton was sporting the red quarterback jersey and threw around a bit during the hot Charlotte afternoon. He wasn’t there to work on his mechanics or a traditional practice, rather it was a confident step to lead by example. Newton wanted everyone to know that he has their back, and though not 100%, he is still beside them in battle. Truly the mark of an excellent leader and someone who is mindful of his role within the organization.
Newton went under the knife in March of this year to clean up a nagging injury that has riddled him since his Auburn days. It was a voluntary operation that he wanted to take care of before it continued to slow down his ability to compete.
At only 25 years old, Newton has a solid decade of football still in front of him. His high-intensity playing style and mobile abilities were being hampered by the irritating injury. Initially, it was thought that Newton would be out until July’s training camp resting his ankle. The fear was how long would it take for the former Auburn standout to gel with a new arsenal of weapons at receiver.
Veteran WRs Jericho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood step in to fill the roles vacated by Brandon LaFell, Tedd Ginn, Jr. and Domenik Hixon. Nobody on the current roster is capable of bringing to the table what Steve Smith did in his previous 13-years in Carolina, but rookie Kelvin Benjamin looks to be the heir-apparent. Benjamin has a long way to go to fill those shoes, but the potential is there to be the Panthers newest stud receiver.
Cam knows this and knew he had to figure out a way to connect with his new crew of receivers. Just being out on the field tossing the ball around lightly lets teammates know that he is serious about being here. He stood on the sideline and didn’t participate in team drills, but being involved in these drills was not the purpose of Newton being there. Getting timing and a rapport down with his four newest receivers will be important to establish, but Newton is a patient man. It will come during training camp and the preseason.
Cotchery, Avant and Underwood are seasoned veterans and will do what they have to do to assist Newton.
Benjamin still needs to polish his game up before being concerned about Newton’s status. Once Benjamin shakes the rookie rust off and the game starts slowing down for him, he and Newton will have a bright future. Newton and Benjamin were already seen around each other a lot on the sidelines talking and getting comfortable. Newton watched on with excitement as Benjamin reeled in passes and displayed his freakish athleticism during team drills. The two of them had a good bonding session this past weekend as they volunteered together in Georgia.
The competitor inside Cam is dying to get on the field and go full-speed, but he is not there yet. Soon Panther fans, he will be. Until then, it’s a beautiful thing to see your leader seize the reigns of leadership and being at OTAs, doing whatever he can. It shows a lot about his character and love for the game. His personality is electric and his desire to win is palatable. To think that our leader has been playing at less than 100% since he arrived in Charlotte makes you excited to the potential that is still untapped.