The message comes from a stranger. It says that if Carolina allows the writer to spend 15 minutes with Cam Newton, the quarterback will never throw high again. Cure, is a word the writer uses.
I sense a magic elixir. Cures hyper-tension, leprosy and high passes.
How often do people you don’t know tell you how to fix Newton?
“Oh, all the time,” says Panthers coach Ron Rivera. “All the time.”
First small talk; then free advice.
Rivera is recognized. Carolina quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, a former star quarterback for the Miami Hurricanes, is not.
The relative anonymity means that he hears the homemade remedies second hand.
Take one teaspoon of lemon juice, one teaspoon of coconut oil and quit throwing the ball over everybody’s head.
Dorsey talks as he eats lasagna off a plastic plate in a Bank of America Stadium hallway.
Newton “works hard,” says Dorsey. “It’s not like he doesn’t work at his craft. He’s out there an hour after practice.
“You look around the league – people are going to miss throws. It’s not an easy game. It’s how you bounce back from (the missed throws) and he’s really done a good job this year.”
Despite helping the Panthers to a 12-4 record, NFC South title and a first-round playoff bye, there’s more criticism of Newton than any other starter.
The Superman celebration angers some fans, not all of whom drive Buicks.
And Newton does throw high. He sometimes holds the ball too long. He probably will never throw passes as pretty as New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Despite the strength of his arm, Newton is more effective at short and intermediate routes than he is at long ones.
But did you see him Week 17 against Atlanta?
The Panthers played without receiver Steve Smith, which meant the Falcons could stick their best defender on anybody they chose.
Newton completed 15 of 27 passes for only 149 yards. The Panthers trailed 10-0 in the second quarter and 14-10 at the half. Receivers were not getting open.
So Newton went NBA on the Falcons. He playgrounded them. Like a superior basketball player, he stepped away from the structure and went one-on-world. He ran 12 times for a game high 72 yards.
Of course he took some big hits. But he made that offense his. The running was a catalyst or, better, a wake-up call. Newton threw two touchdown passes, an easy one to Ted Ginn Jr. and – after roaming behind the offensive line so long there was time for a fan to run to the kitchen, grab a drink and return – a line drive to Greg Olsen.
If Newton doesn’t run, the Panthers don’t beat Atlanta.
In three seasons Newton has rushed for 28 touchdowns and passed for 64. No other player in NFL history has rushed for more than 25 touchdowns and passed for more than 50 in a three-year span.
“Cam has a lot of different ways to put stress on a defense,” Dorsey says, still nibbling the lasagna without spilling any. “Either through design, him getting outside or him manufacturing plays, his running is invaluable. That’s the fun part about him. He can manufacture stuff on his own.”
Newton’s ability to run can mask weaknesses. Line misses a block, receivers fail to break free – see you.
“Exactly,” says Dorsey.
If running doesn’t work, mix a quarter of a cup of vinegar with a quarter of a cup of honey and a sign a receiver who is 6-8.