Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. You ask, I answer. Let’s go to the telephones.
Tom, Wanda from Walnut Cove. What do you think of Cam Newton’s performance in the three preseason games we watched?
Newton was all right. He’s had a good camp. He consistently makes good decisions in practice. But he had one terrible play against Miami that he can’t make during the season. Newton began to look at tight end Greg Olsen as soon as Olsen left the huddle. He fixated on him. I could see it from the press box at Bank of America Stadium. Cornerback Jamar Taylor saw it too, and picked off the pass. Fixating on a receiver is an area in which Newton has improved and, I suspect, will continue to. To be consistently effective, he has to.
Do you expect more from him because he signed a contract worth more than $100 million?
The contract doesn’t matter. I expect more because this is his fifth season.
Tom, Sam from Speed. Speaking of contracts, who do the Charlotte Hornets justify signing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to one worth $52.4 million? They’re going to pay him more than $13 million a year. How is he worth that?
You’re worth what you can get. When MKG came to the Hornets, his jump shot came in three parts. He worked overtime to get it down to one. He’ll never be a big scorer. But why not focus on what he can do? His is a relentless game. He plays defense and goes to the basket. There’s not a team in basketball he wouldn’t enhance. For at least four years he will enhance the Hornets.
Tom, Will from Waco. Is there an athlete in Charlotte you like to watch that maybe we don’t know about?
I like Brad Penny, the former Major League star who pitches for the Charlotte Knights. Penny, 37, is a craftsman, and he’s true to his sport. Watch him when he gets two strikes on a batter.
Tom, Roxy from Roxobel.
Is that really a town?
We’re in Bertie County.
Is that really a county?
I’m not here to talk geography. I’m here to talk real football. North Carolina and South Carolina play Thursday in Charlotte. Who do you like?
I like the Gamecocks. To beat traffic, I like the idea of leaving now. Getting to Bank of America Stadium for a weeknight game is always terrible. This will be worse. The Gamecocks and Tar Heels will attract fans that aren’t familiar with downtown Charlotte. To them add people that want nothing more than to get home. Traffic control will be lousy. But the game is appealing.
Tom, Jim from St. James. Do you think Joe Webb makes the Panthers’ roster?
I think so. I hope so. The end of the Carolina-New England game was boring. And then, as Webb dropped back to pass, he was rushed. One big New England defender, tried to drag him down. Webb, at 6-4 and 235 pounds, shook him off. Another big guy tried to get him. Webb avoided him. If you walked to your kitchen when the play began, Webb still would be scrambling when you returned to your TV. Evil regimes have been toppled in less time. Surrounded, Webb finally flipped the ball to Brandon Wegher. The pass was incomplete. But it was an entertaining incompletion.
Tom, Kate from Kitty Hawk. When do the Panthers make their cuts?
The first cut is Tuesday, but it isn’t the deepest. The second cut, the cut that coaches, general managers and equipment managers dread, comes four days later. There’s more talent than there are roster spots. Look at it from the perspective of a player. Work hard, have moments, play the game you’ve played with success all your life. Turn your equipment in, walk out of the stadium and into the sunshine and wonder if you’ll ever play professional football again.