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Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton focused on Miami Dolphins, not recent success

SPORTS PATS-PANTHERS 22 CH
David T. Foster III - MCT
Carolina’s Cam Newton, left, escapes the reach of New England’s Nate Ebner, right, and Dont'a Hightower in the second half of the Panthers’ 24-20 win Monday night in Charlotte.

Cam Newton was less than two days removed from the biggest win on his NFL resume on Wednesday and he didn’t want to talk about it.

The Carolina Panthers’ franchise quarterback is riding a six-game winning streak, and in some national conversations he’s creeping in the back door as a darkhorse MVP candidate.

But the same Newton who’s fond of analogies and known for his smile kept a straight face in front of his locker on Wednesday during his weekly press conference, not showing a sign that he and the Panthers (7-3) are in the midst of their best record since he’s been with the team. He’s bought into his coach’s philosophy that the most important game is the next one, and Newton wanted to keep all the attention on the Miami Dolphins.

“I don’t want to keep looking back at the winning streak or keep count of the winning streak, all I want to worry about is keep winning, and putting ourselves in position that we can flourish at the end of the regular season,” Newton said. “And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about counting winning streaks or having a signature win. The key word right there is the last word: win. Whether it’s a signature win, a close win or a blowout, a win is a win.”

Newton had been criticized in the past for his handling of losing. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said his quarterback has handled the three losses this year “very, very well,” and he used the same modifiers to describe how Newton has handled the six-game winning streak.

“He’s focused in on what’s going to happen,” Rivera said. “He doesn’t dwell on what had happened. He doesn’t think to himself, ‘What else could I have done?’ Those are all things that I know were a big part of him last year. Now it’s about looking forward.”

Newton didn’t care to elaborate much on his third-quarter, 17-yard scramble against the Patriots. On that third-down run, he spun away from a first defender, juked a second to his knee, evaded a third, ran by a fourth, made a fifth trip in pursuit on one final move before finally being tackled near midfield. ESPN tracked him covering 75.8 yards on the run.

He said because of preparation – on the practice field and in the film room, as well as his focus – he has come to expect plays like that.

“You kind of shake your head because it’s nothing you did as a play caller and you’re just happy he’s on your side doing it,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said.

With the wins has come added exposure. A No. 1 overall draft pick and former Heisman Trophy winner, Newton knows a thing or two about the spotlight. But the quarterback has been in even higher demand lately.

Steven Drummond, a team spokesman, said there’s been a substantial up-tick in media requests for Newton in the past three weeks. When the team is losing, the Panthers will receive roughly 10 “real requests” for Newton, Drummond said. When the Panthers are winning, that number doubles.

When asked how much he enjoys finally winning in the NFL, Newton said it went without saying.

“I know everything just goes smoother: the vibe around the locker room, people’s attitude, the want. Your preparation is just flourishing,” he said. “When you prepare the right way, when you do the things to do, the whole recipe of what coaches tell you to do… for winning to happen, it feels great.”

His energy and charisma has been infectious with the team. On Wednesday, Rivera recalled a story from last week at practice when, after an interception, players from both sides of the ball kept going long after Rivera had blown the whistle several times in an attempt to avoid an injury.

The coach admitted he had “a few choice words” for the team before Newton spoke up.

“Cam says, ‘Oh coach, you are most certainly in a tough spot. One moment you want to be careful, the next you want great effort. So pick and choose,’” Rivera said.

“He’s got this great knack of breaking things up and getting everybody to take a deep breath and you see that. You see he’s got a good feel for us, and us as a team.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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