Cam Newton walks into his news conference Tuesday wearing a vintage Rumble in the Jungle long-sleeved T-shirt. Muhammad Ali’s stunning victory against George Foreman in Zaire was the Rumble. On the shirt, Ali’s face is superimposed above the African continent.
“Appreciate it,” says Newton. “Thanks.”
Newton has worn Ali garb before, so the shirt isn’t a testament to the sweet science. In fact, Newton says the media made too big a deal of his training camp tiff Monday with cornerback Josh Norman.
“It’s no hard feelings between no one in the locker room, including me and Josh,” Newton says. “I’m bringing the best out of Josh and Josh is bringing the best out of me. … It’s an attitude you have to have.”
Would you do it again?
“Do what again?’ Newton asks. “Practice hard? Yes. I practice hard each and every day. I have no regrets of things that I’ve done. Been whispered about a franchise quarterback doing this and doing that. What’s the blueprint of a franchise quarterback? Leading your team? I’m not going to let no one dictate how I play. I’m not going to let no one dictate how I feel.”
Newton probably feels as if he was ahead on points when he and Norman were separated.
The problem with the scuffle is that Newton and Norman are two of the Panthers’ best players. Norman isn’t as famous as Newton, but he is as good at his job as Newton is at his.
But Norman is a football player. Newton, we’ve decided, is a quarterback.
Football players inevitably begin to bang on each other about 10 practices into training camp. The same players go against each other every day in front of coaches and cameras, and in the heat. They tire of each other. Scuffles are so regular it’s as if they’re scheduled.
But quarterbacks rarely participate. Did Jimmy Clausen ever participate in a training camp takedown? Did Matt Moore or Jake Delhomme, Chris Weinke or Rodney Peete? Of course they didn’t.
Until Monday, Newton didn’t, either.
Newton, 6-5 and 245 pounds, typically has been the peacemaker, more likely to pull a combatant from the fray than to instigate one. He instigated Monday’s altercation when he grabbed Norman’s helmet.
If Newton had been hurt, Norman would wrongly have been criticized. Because Newton wasn’t hurt, it’s Newton who’s being criticized. I realize I’m in the minority, but I don’t think the skirmish is terribly important. Newton made a mistake he’s unlikely to make again.
We can worry about all the bad that could have happened. Or we can live in the present. Monday’s tiff is a testament to the adage, “No harm, no foul.”
It’s not as if Newton provoked a 6-1, 261-pound linebacker. New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith apparently did Tuesday. Linebacker IK Enemkpali, who weighs 261 pounds, broke Smith’s jaw in a locker room dispute. But Enemkpali didn’t get away clean. He was cut.
Norman is 6-0 and weighs 195 pounds. If Newton must get invovled in another altercation, one hopes it is with a punter.
Newton speaks Tuesday about team, being part of a team and being a leader. He refuses to allow outsiders to dictate who he is and what he does. He says that the media considers him a franchise quarterback. But to his teammates, he’s a football player.
Newton also says: “You’ve never seen a guy in a red jersey like me. You see what I’m saying?”
Talking about the media’s perception of him, Newton says: “We’ve never see a franchise quarterback involved (in a scuffle). But what I do is not prototypical.”
In the red jersey and prototypical comments, Newton sounds as if he is special.
His $103.8 million contract is special. But those numbers are predicated on what he’s expected to accomplish, more than what he has.
Newton is absolutely entitled to big money. The franchise has hitched itself to him, and the offense is his.
But, man, don’t talk about being special. Take off the red jersey and prove it.