|Not necessarily a relevant picture, but Cam + Hamm = Awesome. (Getty Images)|
There's not a whole lot of bad things you can say about Cam Newton's performance during the 2011 season, when he set the rookie record for passing yards in a season and generally set the league on fire.
That is, unless you're Alex Smith and trying to make a pedantic argument about the statistical importance of passing yards. Or, apparently, Cam Newton himself -- the quarterback told Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports that he was "very immature" and "a bad teammate" last year.
"I was very immature," Newton told Cole. "I’ll be the first one to tell you, the pouting and the moping, I kind of overdid it. I know that. I was a bad teammate. I shut off to some people who gave unbelievable effort. That’s where I have to mature."
There was reason to think that Newton was a little surly last year: Newton wasn't the most energetic fella during his postgame press conferences following Panthers losses. And there was some belief that Newton was "shutting people off" when he wore a towel on his head on the sidelines. (Personally, I think it's way overblown, but expect Newton's comments to re-engergize that tired debate.)
Perhaps "shutting down" is the wrong word though. Newton's quotables from Cole's article sound worse than what the quarterback was actually saying, which was that he put a lot of blame on himself for the losses.
“Half the time it wasn’t me shutting people down because I was thinking they weren’t giving the same effort as me, it was me knowing there were things I could do that could have changed the outcome of the game," Newton said. "I put a lot on me to be able to respond. When things are going wrong, I wanted to have the ball in my hand, just like any warrior, any competitor who has played this game.
"When you don’t get the results you want, I didn’t go about it the right way."
It shouldn't be all that surprising that Newton struggled with losing in his rookie year. He was coming off one of the more ridiculous seasons in college football history -- not only did he put up stupid numbers (2,854 passing yards, 1,473 rushing yards, 50 touchdowns) while Auburn went undefeated en route to a BCS title, but he did it all while getting absolutely smothered with coverage of off-field rumors.
That's not an easy adjustment, especially when big stats as a rookie aren't translating to wins the way that they probably should have. But read the entire article from Cole and you'll see that Newton's being challenged by the teammates -- the re-born Steve Smith, the heavily-utilized Greg Olsen to name a few -- and coaches -- quarterbacks coach Mike Shula -- to name a few.
And more importantly, he's he's challenging himself to get better and improve on his response to bad games, series and plays.
"I have to have the same mentality, but I have to go about it in a different way," Newton said. "It's an overall maturity level that has to kick in. It's saying, 'OK, that was two plays ago that you threw that interception, now you have to let that go and get past that.' I can't be moping and crying about making a bonehead play when it was three series ago. That's the thing that I did that has to change."
If Newton's able to do that, he'll end up avoiding any sort of sophomore slump and could end up being more productive (at least in terms of high productivity with a greater efficiency). And if that happens, Newton will definitely get his wish when it comes to people tuning in to see the Panthers.
"My fingers are crossed and my knees are on the floor every night just praying and just demanding that people watch the show and see what happens this year," Newton said. "Just watch the show."
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