Count Panthers coach Ron Rivera among those who believe rookie quarterback Cam Newton has earned a spot in the Pro Bowl next month in Hawaii.
Newton is third in fan voting for the NFC quarterback position, trailing Green Bays Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Drew Brees. Three quarterbacks are selected for each conference. Wide receiver Steve Smith also is third in voting among NFC wide receivers.
The fan voting counts for one-third of the total. Player voting and coach voting, which will be done next week, account for the remaining vote totals.
Pro Bowl honorees will be announced Dec. 27.
I think in light of everything hes done and gone through, that young man has proven himself, Rivera said. Its another step in the process of his development. I think he most certainly deserves the opportunity. There are a lot of deserving players in this league as to who should go to the Pro Bowl and who shouldnt.
I do believe what hes done this year speaks for itself and speaks for what weve done offensively. I just think the young man has been tremendous.
Smith offered his support of Newton.
Hes played extremely well. Hes done a great job as a rookie, Smith said. The NFC is tight. Its a tight race. Sometimes as a rookie, you kind of get overlooked because they say, Well, see if you can do it again. You have to build your resume.
GOING HOME: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell looks forward to going home to Houston this weekend where hell put 50 friends and family members in a suite for the game at Reliant Stadium.
Im not going to lie I circled this one on the calendar since the first day we got into camp, LaFell said.
LaFell said the Texans came into existence while he was in high school, filling a void created when the Oilers moved to Tennessee. Hes paid attention as the Texans have locked up their first playoff spot this season.
Im enjoying (their success) even though I play here. Im still a guy from Houston at heart, LaFell said. To see that team have the success theyre having, this year being the first year theyve made the playoffs, its kind of good for the city.
LaFell said he plans to spend as much time with his family as possible while in Houston.
Hopefully we win and coach will let me stay back for an extra day or so, LaFell said.
KICK IT: Rivera said both Olindo Mare and Adi Kunalic worked with the field goal unit during Thursdays practice and will do so again today. Rivera said no decision has been made about who will kick for the Panthers on Sunday.
A NEW DO: Running back DeAngelo Williams will wear his hair braided this week, leaving less for defenders to grab when theyre tackling him.
Williams appeared to be pulled down by his dreadlocks last week against Atlanta, the second time it has happened this season. It also happened against the Detroit Lions, earning a 15-yard penalty flag. There was no flag thrown when Williams was pulled down against the Falcons because it happened between the tackles.
I actually learned something about the call, that you can actually horse collar inside the tackles. I didnt know that, Williams said. I thought a horse collar was a horse collar no matter where it was on the field.
Williams said it hurts to be pulled down by his hair.
Thats why its braided now, he said.
GETTING IT DONE: Linebacker James Anderson, forced into a larger role this season with the absence of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, ranks third in the NFC in tackles. He has 117 tackles, trailing only Washington linebacker London Fletcher and Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway.
Thats impressive, Rivera said. And this is a guy thats I dont want to say playing out of position but hes playing out of role. His role really is hes part of a group. Where now hes trying to lead that group. Its been great watching him grow.