BRADENTON, Fla. Like most people visiting southwest Florida this time of year, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was reminded Wednesday its not just the heat, but the humidity.
With the Panthers choosing to escape the DNC in Charlotte, they set up shop at IMG Academy, where Newton trained for parts of the past two offseasons with former Carolina quarterback Chris Weinke.
Weink forgot to tell me how hot it was, Newton said after the two-hour practice in full pads. I think the equipment guys played a trick on me today by putting a heater inside my helmet.
With temperatures pushing 90 degrees, Newton said it took him only 30 minutes to start sweating more than he typically does during a practice in Charlotte.
Little seemed to faze Newton during his record-breaking rookie season neither sun nor rain nor the weight of expectations that followed the No. 1 overall draft pick into the league.
Beginning with his 422-yard passing effort in a Week 1 loss at Arizona, Newton accomplished things no rookie quarterback had ever done. And in some cases, things no quarterback period rookie or otherwise had done.
His 4,051 passing yards broke Peyton Mannings single-season rookie record of 3,739, and Newton became the first player in NFL history to finish with at least 4,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He also scored 14 rushing touchdowns, topping Steve Grogans mark among quarterbacks.
And that was without a true offseason to prepare.
As the Panthers prepare for Sundays opener at Tampa Bay, Newton believes the Panthers top-10 offense can be even better in its second year under coordinator Rob Chudzinski. But Newton sees little point in discussing it until the games start.
I think theres a lot of guys that are getting (the offense better), including myself. But I think it will be answered on Sunday, Newton said. Its easy for me to come out here and hoo-rah and say this or say that, how this guys doing good or how this guys doing good. But its all going to come down to how we perform on Sunday.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera stood in the back of the IMG football offices as Newton finished his remarks to the media. As the two passed each other, Rivera told Newton hed done a good job.
It was unclear whether Rivera meant at practice or in his public comments, or both. At least twice in Riveras own remarks, he echoed Newtons comment about waiting until Sunday before making any pronouncements.
But as good as Newton was last season, Rivera said there is room for improvement. Newton was sacked 35 times and threw 17 interceptions, many of which came when Newton forced throws into downfield coverage.
Hes one of those guys thats always looking to make the big play. And I think as he understands more and more what this offense is about, I think hell begin to change his decision-making process, Rivera said. I think hell begin to take whats given to him at times. But the one thing about him, and you cant change it, is hes always going to compete.
Newton often is among the last to leave the stadium during the season or offseason. After winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Newton returned to IMG to work with Weinke.
And despite the heat and lengthy stay before Sundays game, Newton is happy to be back here this week.
This is Week 1 of the season. Everybody knows that, Newton said. Everybodys going to be accountable and nothings really changed, except for location. So I dont think its a distraction at all. I think were doing everything just fine.
Newton then was asked what the bigger deal is this week the presence of President Obama in Charlotte or the start of the NFL season. Like a politician, he dodged the question.
Dont put that pressure on me, Newton said. It just depends on who youre asking. But youre asking me personally, (and) I think this is my job. The President has his job. He has to do it to the best of his ability. This is my job, so Im going to try to do it to the best of my ability.