Carolina Panthers

Secret behind a Cam Newton comeback? Body prayer, positive energy, wanting the ball

Cam Newton talks about his body prayer

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton talks about his body prayer, which he does on game days, and says its a form of meditation as well as prayer.
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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton talks about his body prayer, which he does on game days, and says its a form of meditation as well as prayer.

Everyone saw what Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton accomplished on Sunday in a wild fourth-quarter comeback victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Newton was 16 for 22 passing with two touchdowns and a 138.4 quarterback rating, which earned him NFC offensive player of the week honors on Wednesday morning.

His performance, and the skill set that helped him achieve his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback, prompted head coach Ron Rivera to make a noteworthy comparison.

“He wants the ball. He just wants the ball. He’ll come up and say, ‘put it in my hands, coach. Trust me.’ He wants the ball,” Rivera said Monday. “It goes back to something I learned from Michael Jordan when we were in Chicago, and Michael used to say ‘certain guys want the ball in crunch time.’... I’ve told that to Cam, and Cam has always wanted the ball.”

Newton said Wednesday he works too hard to be modest about that personality trait.

“I expect too much from myself for me to just sit back behind and let somebody else leave it to chance for somebody else,” he said. “I take my mind to a mental state, take my body to a mental state that come any given point of the game, I’m willing and prepared to do whatever is asked of me.”

Overlooked?

Rivera was asked Monday if Newton is overlooked when compared to a player such as Aaron Rodgers, who has 14 game-winning drives.

Since he was drafted in 2011, Newton is one of just four quarterbacks to have 17 game-winning drives, including drives in overtime, joining Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck.

“I think he gets overlooked because of his style of play, it’s not a (typical) style,” Rivera said. “He runs the ball a lot. He’s not a pure, pure pocket passer although there are elements of his game where he plays very well from the pocket. He’s good on the move. I think the success he has in the fourth quarter with the comebacks is a lot about his desire and wanting to win.”

Baltimore safety Eric Weddle, who will face Newton and the Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday, said Newton is like a “dinosaur” because he’s a unique, big, powerful runner.

Newton has heard that comparison before from one of his coaches at Auburn, though with a slightly different meaning.

“He said, ‘You’re a dinosaur,’” Newton said. “And I’d ask ‘Why are you calling me a dinosaur?’

“And he’d say, ‘Your talent is extinct. They don’t make ‘em like you no more. And I would always laugh, but as you look around this league ... it’s not cocky, it’s not confident, it’s just self-belief knowing that the talents you possess, a lot of people can’t say that they have.”

Good energy, and ‘body prayer’

Newton does approach the game differently. But it’s more than just his physical skills. Over the past couple of years, Newton said he has gotten into the concept of controlling his metaphysical state.

“I’m big on energy,” he said. “I’m big on ‘reap what you sow.’ I’m big on putting positive energy in the world. What you want, there’s power in, my mom always said, always (speaking) it. (She’d say), ‘Did you know, interesting fact, the tongue is the strongest muscle in your body?’ It is. Look it up. Ask Siri.

“But as you speak it, that’s pretty much what you’re calling yourself and what you’re labeling your situation to be. And that’s what I do, good bad or indifferent.

“This year, I’ve studied so much of football, to be so much of a mental sport. It is, just like any other thing. You don’t help yourself when you’re in a negative, angry, pessimistic airspace. When you’re clear-minded and you’re open and full of exuberance and joy, that’s when great things tend to happen.”

Newton also does a “body prayer” before every game, which he says is a way for him to meditate.

“It’s when you go down every single ligament, and you touch it, and you pray for it,” he said. “It typically takes minutes, hours, whatever. It’s a form of meditation. I’ve been doing it (since) junior college. And that’s me at peace with asking God what I want from that day.

“It doesn’t get much clearer. ... I go down from wrist, ankle, knee, neck, Lord knows I’ve been praying for my arm, head, toes, calf, hips, backbone, spleen, ear lobe, all of that.”

‘He goes all-in’

Rivera laughed when asked about Newton’s “body prayer” practice.

“It’s him,” he said. “Certain things like that, he goes all-in. The diet and stuff as well. He really does. It’s a legitimate thing for him. It’s one of those things that he’s stayed with, he does it. I don’t know specifically what it is, but I do know he does it. And like I said, it’s legitimately him...When he does something, he does it 100 percent.”

Newton practices these things only for himself. And to him, they’re working.

He said told himself after Carolina’s gut-check comeback attempt — and loss — to Washington in Week 6 that if he ever got the same opportunity again, he’d capitalize.

Wednesday, he said that the NFC offensive player of the week award was an honor, but not the biggest accolade the win brought him, in his mind.

“The thing I’m most proud of is just channeling the inner energy,” he said, “(After) telling (myself what I would do) if I was ever put back in that situation.”

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
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