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Newton sharper in pro day workout with Auburn receivers

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By Andy Bitter
Special to NFLDraft.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Over four hours passed at Auburn's pro day before the main attraction, quarterback Cam Newton, stepped onto the Jordan-Hare Stadium field.

He didn't disappoint.

Newton threw around 65 passes in front of more than 150 NFL coaches, scouts and front office personnel Tuesday, easing some concerns after a somewhat erratic performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis nine days ago.

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"He came out like Secretariat," said George Whitfield Jr., Newton's personal quarterback coach. "He was pawing at the ground, knew it was a big day, wanted it, waiting for the gates to open. The kid went off."

Newton wanted to show consistency, especially after sailing some of his longer throws during an 11-for-21 performance at the combine.

"Every quarterback has tendencies, every athlete has tendencies," Newton said. "And that's my tendency, to get impatient. And when I get impatient, the throws are erratic. That's one thing I wanted to focus on: to be comfortable today."

In slightly windy conditions, Newton was sharp, showing zip on his passes and being on target. He went down a list of passes -- perimeter throws, comebacks, out routes, everything -- throwing to a cadre of receivers from Auburn he's worked with before, including Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Kodi Burns and Derek Winter.

Of his 60 passes in the session scripted by Whitfield, only 10 fell incomplete.

"He really came out and attacked this deal," Whitfield said. "I think the coaches and scouts, especially when we went back and asked them if they wanted to hear anything else or see anything else, [Cardinals] coach [Ken] Whisenhunt asked him to throw maybe two balls, [Titans offensive coordinator Chris] Palmer asked to see two more balls, and that was it. I asked them many times and they were good. They thought we put together a good game plan. Cam came out and executed the game plan, and that was a bigger deal."

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were on hand, including the head coach from teams with five of the first six picks in April's NFL Draft. Carolina's Ron Rivera, Denver's John Fox -- with executive vice president of football operations John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders in tow -- Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Whisenhunt and Cleveland's Pat Shurmur were all in attendance, although none elected to speak to the media afterward.

The Bills, who own the third pick, were represented by general manager Buddy Nix.

Of the 60 passes in Newton's scripted throwing session, only 10 fell incomplete. (AP)  
Of the 60 passes in Newton's scripted throwing session, only 10 fell incomplete. (AP)  
"I tell you this, workouts are a small piece of the puzzle," Nix said. "We go by how they play. If the throwing is good, you can tell something about their release, you can tell something about his arm. But the only way you can tell how a guy can play quarterback is when he's being rushed and you've got coverage and you've got to throw it in a tight spot and you've got pressure on you. That's kind of what we go by. The biggest percentage, anyway. Eighty percent, probably."

Nix said completion percentages are sometimes misleading, since they can be propped up by short passes. He wanted to see Newton throw the corner and deep routes.

Did he learn anything about Newton he didn't already know?

"No," Nix said. "He did good, and I expected him to."

Newton, who some felt needed to answer more questions about his character after the recruiting scandal that dogged him the second half of the college season, continued to build a rapport with representatives from each of the teams.

"They want to know everything," he said. "They want to know who I really am. During this whole process, I've done a lot of explaining about who I really am. I'm extremely comfortable with that, because I know this is a multi-million dollar investment, and they have to know who they're picking. Each organization has to do a thorough investigation on who this person really is: what his background is and is he a competitor? It's just fun and I look forward to talking to team after team about who I really am."

Newton wouldn't speculate where he'll be taken in April's draft.

"That's not something I'm thinking of right now," he said. "My focus is on me being the best player I can be. Tomorrow is another day for me to work on my craft and become another football player. I'm not going to worry about something I do not have control over, but I do have control over myself. To make this transition a fluid one to the NFL."

Auburn's other first-round lock, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, had a much more limited day. He measured in at 6-foot-4, 297 pounds, then stuck with his combine numbers for the individual drills. He took the field for the first time with his fellow defensive linemen for positional drills, doing a variety of cone drills, showing agility and footwork while weaving through cones and pads as scouts watched.

"If anybody can tell if a guy can play football running through dummies, he's better than I am," Nix said. "But you do see athletic ability. He has great ability, feet, speed and bursts and all of those things. He's a good player. He makes plays on Saturday, and he'll make them again on Sundays."

It's notable that Lewis said during the telecast that the Bengals liked almost everything they'd seen from Fairley but were doing more work on his background such as "talking to the janitor." Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer accompanied Lewis.

Fox and Elway, who own the No. 2 pick with the Broncos, stood in the front of a group looking on as the defensive linemen did drills. Fairley said he had conversations with all the teams in attendance, including Carolina, which owns the No. 1 pick.

"I can just show that I've still been working," said Fairley, who was pleased with his day. "Even though the combine is over with ... I'm still training. I wanted to show those guys that I'm still working to get better."

Andy Bitter covers Auburn for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer.

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