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Training Camp Roundup: Cam Newton bucks the narrative

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Why does the 'Cam Newton isn't a leader' narrative still exist?
Why does the 'Cam Newton isn't a leader' narrative persist? (USATSI)

There's this stupid, silly narrative about Cam Newton that persists for many people. He's not a leader, he's pouty, he's not a good teammate, he's fake, he's selfish. Etc., forever. I'd like to think that some of those, which were potentially attached to him coming out of college because of ... other reasons, have dissipated to a degree.

But people still wonder if he can become a "winner" in the NFL, as if a guy who stormed Auburn to a national championship doesn't contain whatever necessary intangibles fit that insidious stereotype. Hopefully Cam's recent actions at training camp will help solve that problem -- the quarterback was spotted giving his cleats to a die-hard Panthers fan with cerebral palsy after a training camp practice.

Following a lengthy practice session in sweltering Spartanburg -- which was followed by a lengthy autograph session for fans -- Cam spotted 33-year-old Shelly McIntosh in her wheelchair and:

"As soon as he came up to her, he wanted to know her name and we told him her name and he just bent over unlacing his shoes," Shelly's mother Pat said. "And I just thought he'd give her a shoelace and thought, 'What he's doing?'"

Frankly, a shoelace seems like the worst sort of present in the world from an athlete. Instead, Cam unlaced his cleats, signed them and gave them to Shelly after spending some time speaking with the Panthers fan, who is unable to communicate and confined to a wheelchair.

Now, none of this makes Cam a leader, per se. And cynics could certainly claim that this was a public relations stunt designed to make Cam look good for the cameras.

Whatever.

If all you've seen of Cam is the postgame press conferences where he shakes his head, or all you've heard is an announcer complain that he wears -- *gasp* a towel over his head while on the sidelines, then you're already jaded and wrong. (Besides, not like he's the first guy to rock a Gatorade towel on his head.)

You're also the type of person who wants Cam to have a captain "C" patch on his jersey, because, you know, he's the quarterback and that's how it works, or something inane like that. You might point that a lack of the "C" shows a lack of leadership on Cam's part, when the reality is taking one of those offensive captainships away from Steve Smith or Jordan Gross -- two of the longer-tenured, more-respected Panthers on the roster -- would do far more damage than not giving Newton one would.

But, hey, in the world of evaluating NFL players, it's often difficult to see the forest for the trees whenever we start talking about quarterback wins. For instance, Newton's own GM Dave Gettleman appears, um, "lost in the sauce" that is quarterback wins.

“Cam has had the best two years of any rookie quarterback in NFL history. And everybody talks about the other young [quarterbacks],” Gettleman said Wednesday. “What he's done has been completely lost in the sauce because of the elephant in the room – the 13-19 record. I'm a big believer in letting nature take its course. Things will happen naturally."

Gettleman also praised Newton's skills -- "He's bright ... he works his fanny off." -- and natural abilities and thinks Cam can turn the corner and become a winner.

The Cats GM, who's worked with the Giants and Eli Manning and has two more Super Bowl rings than most people, is obviously an astute football mind who knows a thing or two about winning quarterback. I just happen to disagree with him on the stance of whether or not Cam's record defines him.

I also disagree with anyone who purports to know, for a fact, that Cam Newton isn't a leader because of some preconceived mularkey. And while I won't be able to prove it until after the season ends, I think this is the year Cam turns back another tide of critics.

Injury Bug

  • D.J. Williams was carted off from Bears training camp practice. The injury appears to be to his calf and he's week-to-week. Being the replacement for Brian Urlacher on Chicago's defense means it will be heavily scrutinized.
  • Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon remains out with a case of patellar tendinitis in his knee. Rob Chudzinski said it "shouldn't be too big of a deal" and that's all well and fine, but Gordon's already missing the first two games of the year. This preseason prep time is key for him.

Let's. Get. Phyyyyyysical.
(Formerly Fight Club.) Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro could be one of the sneakier impact rookies in the league this year; everyone likes to talk about pass rushers and cornerbacks on the defensive side, but his physicality as a safety could make a difference for the Saints this year.

Apparently it already is -- Vaccaro's drawing strong reviews for his physical play and nearly got into a fight with tight end Jimmy Graham.

“We actually both had our hands on the ball and I was trying to rip it from him,” Vaccaro said. “At the end I kind of flicked it back and it hit Jimmy in the head and it almost turned into a brawl. But we're both cool. We understand that we're just competing and sometimes things get heated."

As soft as the Saints were on D last year, this might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

"Get me to Houston"
Ed Reed knows the score, son. He talked with reporters (check the 5:20 and 7:50 marks below) and pointed out his text messages with Andre Johnson. Johnson texted him after the Super Bowl to say "Congratulations!" Reed, probably knowing where he stood with the Ravens, fired back: "Get me to Houston."

Jets-Jets-Jets
So the Jets get lots of attention, per usual, with most of it focused on their quarterbacks. I said earlier this week I think Geno Smith wins the job if he outplays Mark Sanchez (BOLD RIGHT?) but that making Sanchez the sacrificial lamb wouldn't be a terrible idea.

The latter notion might be meaningless -- Brian Costello of the New York Post thinks Geno, despite being "not perfect," crushed Sanchez on Wednesday. One day a training camp does not make, but if Geno's flashing enough in camp, John Idzik's going to give him the starting job. Er, I mean Rex Ryan. Yes, Rex Ryan.

Oh, and meanwhile, Geno wants to be like Michael Jordan.

Chip Can Drive 65
A lot was made Tuesday about the NFL's head of officiating Dean Blandino saying he was going to keep Chip Kelly from running an offense that's too fast for the officials. Chip Kelly summoned his inner Sammy Hagar in response.

This, of course, wasn't even REMOTELY the biggest news of the day. Riley Cooper took care of that, unfortunately.

The First Rule of Doug Marrone Injury Club Is Don't Talk About Doug Marrone Injury Club
Does the new Bills coach really think that by getting mad at the media for asking about injuries he's somehow going to get them to ease off? It's the opposite of a Belichickian approach and it's probably going to backfire. But, hey, knock yourself out, Coach.

Redskins Retain "Most Bloggable Title"
No Alfred Morris, that's not Tom Brady. That's Bryce Harper.

Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III is doing Robert Griffin III things.

Potent Quotables

1) Get it, Mojo

2) Presented without comment, Doug Pederson, Chiefs offensive coordinator, on his quarterback Alex Smith:

“Ultimately, every team has to have a quarterback. I think we have the best in the league."

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