Cam Newton reveals major regret with fellow Carolina Panthers icon

Cam Newton revealed a major regret regarding his initial relationship with fellow Carolina Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr.
Cam Newton and Steve Smith Sr.
Cam Newton and Steve Smith Sr. / Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton has never been short of a few words. The former Carolina Panthers quarterback transitioned seamlessly to the media world, becoming an independent force who's also appeared on high-profile shows as he begins a life without football, to a certain extent.

Newton's playing career was a phenomenon. He's the only quarterback ever to win the Heisman Trophy, a college football national championship, go No. 1 overall in the draft, and win NFL MVP. Things flamed out quickly following the Panthers' decision to release him in 2020, but his contribution inspired a new generation of players who idolized the signal-caller.

The Panthers' drafting of Newton in 2011 came during a time of great change. This led to an inevitable collision course with wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., the locker room alpha before his arrival. There was a clash in personalities right out of the gate, which eventually concluded with the wideout departing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.

Cam Newton lauds Steve Smith Sr. with one big Carolina Panthers regret

During his recent appearance on Club Shay Shay with Shannon Sharpe, the former Auburn standout discussed what made Smith so great. He acknowledged there was a sense of friction, but Newton also harbored one big regret he would change if given the chance to do everything again.

"Great teammate, but just like Luke Kuechly. When Smitty was on the field, get the f--k outta his way. He was a pit bull. And that's what I took from him. Now you have to understand who Smitty was and if I could, [I'd] go back and change things. Smitty wanted to win yesterday, and he knew as a business what taking a young quarterback meant. We are rebuilding. He didn't wanna rebuild. He wanted to win. And I can't take that away from Smitty.

"And we bumped heads, you know because he felt the transitioning of the team to kind of go to the quarterback. And I can't fault him for that. If I had to change things I would wish to have had Smitty during my fifth year. [Be]cause now we can talk, we can have grown man conversations. And I don't think a lot of people understand what that's like going into an NFL locker room at the age of 21, 22. Because we got all these veterans, bro, and you gotta lead."

Newton's fifth season, of course, was 2015. This was the campaign where the Panthers went 15-1 and the dual-threat force won NFL MVP. They breezed through the postseason en route to winning the NFC Conference championship. Unfortunately, they fell agonizingly short of the first Super Bowl in franchise history following a heartbreaking loss against the Denver Broncos.

Had Newton and Smith been together at this stage, it could have made a big difference. The pass-catcher did suffer some injury complications that season - featuring just seven times for the Ravens - but he was still playing at an extremely high level despite his advancing years.

Carolina's implosion on the grandest stage of all came thanks to woeful offensive line play and Newton - by his admission - playing the occasion and not the game. Whether Smith's mentality would have been enough to galvanize the signal-caller versus a ferocious Broncos defensive front is debatable, but it wouldn't have hurt by any stretch.

Newton and Smith are on good terms now. Their career paths crossed briefly, but they were at two different stages. Had they been a similar age or the wideout had been more receptive to passing the baton, it would have gone differently. Unfortunately, egos, personal pride, and youthful exuberance got in the way of something truly special.

That, above all else, is the saddest thing of all.