At one end of Memorial Stadium on a beautiful Friday afternoon was former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, the current Washington corner who famously fought with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during a training camp practice two years ago.
At the other end was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston, one of Newton’s NFC South quarterback rivals.
Both put their rivalries aside to participate in Newton’s third annual kickball tournament, the start of a two-day fundraising weekend for Newton’s foundation. Newton hosts a Kids Rock! gala on Saturday night at the Convention Center.
Even with a surgically repaired shoulder he’s still rehabbing, Carolina Panthers quarterback showed Friday he can still get his competitive juices flowing – and he can still draw a crowd.
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Newton was pleased with the turnout for the 18-team tournament that included a couple dozen of his former and current teammates, retired players such as Terrell Owens, and Charlotte Hornets big men Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.
Newton had surgery in March to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He has yet to throw a football during an OTA practice, but Friday he rolled kickballs toward the plate and used an underhand throwing motion to get runners at first base.
“Just to clear the record – underhand is a natural throwing motion. It’s not causing any issues. I consider it as natural treatment,” Newton said, smiling. “I’m pretty sure (Panthers trainer) Ryan Vermillion’s going to see this and probably is already texting me. If not he’s going to give me a big earful on Monday.
“We’re just having fun. Great cause, great weather and great turnout.”
The celebrity list included Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, two years after Newton took home the award following his only season at Auburn.
Winston said it was a given he’d be in Charlotte after he heard from Newton.
“I grew up looking up to Cam my whole life,” Winston said in a brief interview. “There’s no way I wouldn’t be here for him.”
Newton said having Winston in attendance was “big” for the event.
“Me and Jameis have been in contact for a couple of years, ever since he came into the league. I just try to be of a service to him,” Newton said. “When I reached out to him, I was just happy he was able to come – just like everybody else.”
Newton’s family joined him under a VIP tent along the sideline at the stadium. The group included his parents and younger brother Caylin, a freshman quarterback at Howard.
Caylin Newton was the person responsible for getting his older brother to dab during the Super Bowl season of two years ago. He smiled at the memory Friday when it was mentioned to him.
Norman was part of the Panthers’ Super Bowl team before general manager Dave Gettleman rescinded his franchise tag offer last year. Though he’s building a home in suburban D.C. he says is worthy of being on MTV “Cribs,” Norman maintains a residence in Charlotte as well as friendships with many of his ex-teammates.
Norman wasn’t surprised to learn Newton has been vocal despite not participating in OTAs, and wanted to know what defensive players challenged Newton now that he’s gone. (He was told Thomas Davis, among others.)
Newton did not respond to a question about his throwing schedule. But he happily jumped on a question about the video that Ryan Kalil shot during a camping trip that spoofed Newton’s tropical island-inspired birthday video.
“It’s pretty cool. It was something I wasn’t expecting. He (set) it up perfect,” Newton said. “I was just ticked off I didn’t get invited. For those guys to be pointing the finger of who invites who (to) this place and that place, I just didn’t get invited.
“I seen Greg (Olsen). I seen Luke (Kuechly). So it wasn’t really an O-line trip when you’ve got those guys coming. I was available, as well.”
Newton took lots of pictures and signed lots of autographs Friday – part of what he considers the “fine print” of being a star athlete.
“I know what my job requires,” he said. “It’s bigger than just being a good football player. Things like this help me achieve those goals.”