Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton can’t even count the ways he can improve his game in the season after winning the NFL’s most valuable player award.
There’s his completion percentage, which could stand to go up. He’s reading defenses better than ever before, Ron Rivera said, but he can still improve.
There are other areas of work for Newton, who at 27 sits at the top of the NFL world. And he knows it.
“I haven’t peaked,” Newton said Thursday at the end of the Carolina Panthers’ mandatory minicamp. “I haven’t climaxed as a player, and that’s what I need to get better at.
“I always can find ways to take my game to the next level, and just getting everybody on the same page as one of the captains on this team, I take that very pridefully. And knowing there are a lot of people looking at me, as well as others, to lead the team.”
Thursday was not the day to get Newton talking about the past, though. He deflected several questions that verged near Super Bowl 50 talk.
He was “not worried about the Super Bowl” and what it takes to get back to the Super Bowl in Houston in February. Newton is “really not focused” on what he had learned in the past four months since the loss to Denver.
And any questions about the press conference (barely) heard round the world? He wasn’t going there, either.
“I’m really so focused on June 2016 and going forward,” Newton said. “I think I don’t need to keep talking about things that happened in the past, and for what it’s worth, I’m here trying to get better, find ways to link up with my players in the offseason so that we can maximize our talents to start in playoff form at the start of the season.”
A trip to Baltimore
Newton plans to invite the 14 receivers and six tight ends on the Panthers’ roster to the Under Armour facilities in Baltimore for a training session that could last more than a week.
Last year he covered the cost for his receivers to spend a few days or a week to train with him at Under Armour, working on consistency and rhythm.
Some of that was lacking at times during organized team activities and minicamp, which is to be expected.
Newton said that, at times, the offense looked to be in midseason form. But he occasionally wasn’t on the same page with receivers this week and was picked off, or nearly intercepted, by two rookie cornerbacks.
“I thought he did some really good things,” Rivera said. “I thought as we went along ... he communicated. I think that’s one of the more important things right now.
“When we first got started I said he’s got room to grow and it’s not just about his base fundamentals as an athlete but his base fundamentals as a mental athlete, understanding the mental aspects of the game. It’s good to see. It’s good to watch him make checks, make decisions, to discuss those things openly with his coaches on the field.
“That’s all part of growing and continuing to be a great quarterback in this league.”
No chip needed, but ...
Newton said he and his teammates don’t need it, but they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder this season.
Rivera keeps reminding the players of the countdown to the Week 1 Super Bowl rematch. Newton, however, said the game in Denver is “so far ahead” that there’s no need to wait on it.
Rivera, though, knows about that chip.
“We’re a very prideful bunch,” the fifth-year coach said. “We know that the ultimate goal wasn’t completed. And I think that, more so than anything else, is what drives us. If you want to consider it a chip on his shoulder then so be it.”
So if Newton isn’t worried about the past, and he’s not worried about Sept. 8 against the Broncos, then next year’s Super Bowl can’t be on his mind.
“We’re trying to maximize our June, and then to our July, and then to August and the list goes on,” Newton said. “The Super Bowl is 2017. We still got a lot to do in 2016.”