Carolina Panthers

Panthers QB Cam Newton is a wine lover, but not a sommelier. He has access to one, though.

RIvera wants players to get away from football for a bit

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he told his players to get away from football over the four-day break after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sometimes the best medicine is to get away, forget it, and come back ready to roll.
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Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he told his players to get away from football over the four-day break after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sometimes the best medicine is to get away, forget it, and come back ready to roll.

The Carolina Panthers saw no need this weekend to watch the tape from their Thursday Night Football loss to Pittsburgh. In fact, Ron Rivera told his players to get away from football during their “mini bye week.”

Not excused from Rivera’s orders, quarterback Cam Newton spent the weekend attending the Auburn-Georgia game, spending time with his family (catching some side-eye from son, Chosen, for Thursday’s loss) and cultivating his burgeoning hobby — cigars and wine.

“I picked up a hobby that I really enjoy, it’s pretty cool,” Newton said Wednesday. “I think I’m on sauvignon blanc right now, really light wine, and a good mild smoke.”

Newton’s road to wine connoisseurship is a multi-year effort and probably won’t be finished anytime soon. While he’s quick to snap photos of wines he likes, his taste level right now is “terrible.”

His words.

Lucky for him, there’s someone close by who he can aspire to — Rudy Patino, a supervisor at Delaware North (the Panthers’ food service provider) and resident wine expert.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said his son Chosen, left, “was looking at me sideways” after the team’s loss to Pittsburgh in Week 10. Chuck Burton AP

“We have a sommelier on staff, Mr. Rudy. I didn’t know that until last year, I was giving a couple players one of my favorite wines and he was just telling me everything about it,” Newton said. “I had just watched the documentary on Netflix, “Somm,” and that was just so cool to me.

“I feel like if I had a gift or a hidden talent outside of playing an instrument, I would want to be a sommelier. Those senses that you have — for those who don’t know it, it’s being able to distinctively tell what type of wine it is, where it’s from and everything about the wine by just the taste, the look and pretty much the feel of the wine.

“It was just pretty cool to come across a person on a day to day basis that knows what they’re talking about. It’s just like playing football, it’s an ongoing thing that you have to constantly keep taking your nose and your tastebuds through.”

Patino lists “Court Of Master Sommeliers Level One” on his LinkedIn profile, which is the first of four examinations the Court of Master Sommeliers offers before granting someone the title of Master Sommelier. He’s also described by several members of the Panthers organization as one the nicest people around the stadium and “the real MVP” according to Newton.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he recently picked up wine tasting as a hobby and wants to be a sommelier. Mike McCarn AP

Newton’s growing passion for wine is one of several tastes he’s acquired over his eight-year career — and not something he thinks he’d have been comfortable talking about publicly as a 22-year-old rookie.

Needless to say, times have changed.

“I’m 29 years old,” he quipped, “and you know I ain’t eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and animal crackers at night.

“So many people are into it. It is relaxing, it is something that warms the soul, so to speak, with a very rigorous day that you would imagine I could have at times.”

Newton has put up MVP-consideration worthy numbers over the Panthers’ first nine games and is on pace to set a career-high in completion percentage, post his second season of 30 touchdown passes and his first single-digit interception season. After a humbling loss to the Steelers in Week 10, some time away from game and into his off-field hobby seems like it’ll do him some good entering Carolina’s game Sunday at Detroit.

But really, the only thing he needed to get his mind right was the look his 2-year-old gave him over the weekend.

“Chosen was looking at me sideways like, ‘bruh you lost bad. Got a 50-spot put on you,’” Newton said. “I can’t let that keep happening. Hopefully when I go see him on Monday or Tuesday, or if he comes and sees me, we’ll have another discussion.”

Marcel Louis-Jacques, 704-358-5015: @Marcel_LJ
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