Cam Newton had never seen Bank of America Stadium as dark as it was in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The fifth-year Carolina Panthers quarterback stayed at the team facilities past 2 a.m. Tuesday watching tape and preparing for the Dallas Cowboys on a short week.
“I’ve never been here long enough to catch the lights off,” said Newton before his weekly press conference. “It was kind of scary.”
He wasn’t doing anything special staying late. He was doing what needs to be done.
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No position on the field takes more preparation than the quarterback. He must know the defense – from personnel to scheme to tendencies.
What do they like to do in third-and-long? When do they have a tendency to send the middle linebacker on a blitz? How often does the right defensive end drop into coverage?
All those questions can be answered only by watching tape. So after handling Washington 44-16 on Sunday and before traveling to Dallas on Wednesday afternoon, Newton must find that out.
I’ve never been here long enough to catch the lights off. It was kind of scary.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
“I wanted to make sure we stayed on things, especially at the quarterback position,” Newton said. “There are a lot of things that are being installed daily and I didn’t want to be behind (Tuesday).”
Newton’s Monday consisted of an afternoon film session and light practice. He got back to the locker room around 5 p.m. and prepared for his foundation’s third annual Thanksgiving event. He got there before 6 p.m. and hosted a dance competition and musical chairs, served food for 900 at-risk children and their families and did a host of interviews, including one with ESPN’s SportsCenter.
He left the event before 9 p.m. and eventually made his way back to the stadium, where he stayed past 2 a.m. and went to sleep before returning hours later.
“He did his charity event last night which was outstanding, and then he was here right until it was time to leave and go to the event. He’s focusing in. He got here early in the morning. They spent time going right at it.”
The abridged week means there will be some carryover from last week’s game plan, Rivera said. By Week 12 of the NFL season most of the offense is installed, so there typically isn’t much change.
What has obviously changed is the amount of attention the Panthers are receiving from outside the building.
There’s never been such a consistent, large presence of national media coming through Charlotte during the regular season in the Rivera-Newton era. The Panthers have protected Newton against the onslaught on media requests, making him available only at his mid-week press conference and after each game and not offering him to national outlets.
On Tuesday, he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time in his Panthers’ career.
On Thursday, he’ll play in a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving for the first time in his career.
But the game remains the same.
“None of that, in November, is really important,” Newton said. “We want to be relevant come January and February. That’s where our eyes are on, but yet making the most out of our journey.
“It’s all about preparation and games like this it goes to the team that’s prepared the most and that’s more ready for the moment. We know it’s going to be on a national stage. Guys are understanding of that. But it’s just another game.”