|Newton has the special qualities of big-time pro quarterbacks, Warren Moon says. (Getty Images)|
Warren Moon was speaking on the telephone about Cam Newton when suddenly Moon's other line signaled. It was Newton himself. Moon said he'd call me back. He needed to speak with Newton. I joked to Moon he needed to get his priorities straight.
True to his word -- Moon is always true to his word -- Moon called back. Since I'm nosy, I wanted to know what the conversation was about. Moon would reveal little. He remains one of Newton's closet advisors (they speak frequently) and wouldn't violate Newton's trust but Moon did say one interesting thing.
Newton had just emerged from a lengthy film session (on his day off) and in his conversation with Moon something came up that again showed the specialness of Newton. Despite producing some incredible numbers, and proving the idiots wrong who thought he was too lazy or too dumb to be an NFL quarterback, Newton spoke to Moon about something besides his statistical prowess.
"You would think that with all the yards he's thrown for and all the accolades he's getting, he'd be ecstatic with things now," said Moon, "but as soon as we get on the phone all he could talk about was trying to get wins. Regardless of all the numbers that's his only goal."
Do you remember the days leading up to the draft? Remember when a significant number of people inside and out of the sport predicated Newton to be a flop?
We're at the quarter mark of the season, and it's worth taking a look back at the player who was supposed to be so controversial but instead has developed into one of the best young quarterbacks in football.
Moon was one of the few believers in Newton all along and he isn't here to gloat. I also don't want to portray Moon like he's on a Higgins boat heading to Omaha Beach. But Moon was right all along about Newton and what people got wrong the most was Newton's attitude. He was never a contagion, a lazy bum. All along, he had the mentality of a professional.
"I was around Cam almost every day for a good two or three weeks leading up to the draft," Moon remembered. "I watched his footwork, his arm, his throwing technique. It was really a matter of fine tuning. You could see he was going to be good. You just had to spend time around him and the Panthers did. The Panthers did their homework.
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"The biggest thing was his attitude. He has this calming influence and it spreads throughout a huddle and a team. I've been around too many quarterbacks who had this not to recognize it. I've been around quarterbacks who had all the talent in the world but didn't have that confidence. Cam has that confidence. He can lead without being a bully."
There is a lesson with Newton and it's this: none of us knows. Well, Moon knew. The Panthers knew. There were a handful of talent evaluators in the NFL who got it right, but so many got it wrong for a variety of reasons (some complicated, some not).
Newton's story isn't just a lesson on how so many got the quarterback wrong, it's a lesson on how so many got the man himself wrong. His mistakes made as a kid were held against him with far more verve than usual and that in turn altered the perception of him.
No, Moon isn't gloating, but he's proud. Nothing wrong with that.
2. I'm told Tiki Barber is close to giving up hope on playing football again.
3. Scout on Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman: "If the Bucs threw the ball more, he'd be capable of leading the league in passing. That's how much potential is there. It's scary."
4. Patriots players express privately they have great respect for the Jets and expect them to be angry when the two teams meet this week. However, the Patriots players also see this game as a chance to perhaps mortally wound the Jets' season.
5. I don't know if Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has truly changed or not, but after the Houston game, I saw Roethlisberger for the first time in more than a year. It was like I was looking at a different guy. Many times, with the media (and even teammates), Roethlisberger was a smug chump. He was Ben Roethlisberger, and you weren't. This time, he was polite, calm and respectful. Again, don't know if it's an act but if it is, it's a damn good one.
6. How does a Pro Bowl player, a good talent, and a solid guy keep his sanity on a bad team? I asked Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.
"Great question," he told me in a phone interview. "I'll put it this way. My mother had me when she was 15. Nothing was easy for me. I learned to fight for everything. That's never changed, so even though things are rough now, you don't stop fighting.
"No one on this team has given up, I can tell you that. The main thing we have to do now is not get down. Stay even-keeled and keep working hard. When you look at a lot of the great players in this league that's what they do. They practice hard and keep pushing."
How is the team doing in the post-David Garrard era? "It was tough not having him around at first because Dave's a great guy," Lewis said. "But we needed a change. The organization had to move on. Younger, faster, that's how it goes in this league."
"Our team," Lewis said, "is in one of those times when we're going to be tested. How you react when a team is losing says a lot about you. You won't see me stop fighting."
7. Speaking of the Jaguars, it's looking increasingly like Jack Del Rio could be fired during the season. I didn't think that would happen since owner Wayne Weaver is patient and fair, but it doesn't look good for Del Rio. I think it's 70-30 against him lasting the season if the Jaguars keep losing.
8. Some teams, when they start winning, begin saying stupid things like this.
9. I'm hearing the NFL was heavily involved in the decision to pull Hank Williams Jr.'s theme song from Monday Night Football.
10. And last: there is a feeling among some in the NFL that the Packers have a better chance of running the table than did the 2007 New England Patriots.