Carolina Panthers

Superman no more? Panthers star Cam Newton looks ahead to changing his game

Does Cam Newton feel like he no longer has to be Superman?

That’s basically what Newton, now 30 and entering his ninth year in the NFL, told Peter King of NBC Sports on Sunday.

“You can look back at any type of sport and as a player grows, your game has to change,” Newton told King. “I remember reading and seeing a lot of clips about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, even Peyton Manning to a degree. When you get old, you have to change certain things. It kind of keeps you young. I actually look forward to it. I embrace this whole process because it’s made me feel like a rookie again.”

Newton also seemed to recognize that while he’s not exactly the same player he was at age 22, he also should be a smarter one. “So at this point in my career, it’s not about velocity,” Newton said. “It’s not about throwing a ball 70 yards. It’s about efficient football that’s gonna win football games.”

Newton also said playing in the New Orleans Monday night game last December with an obviously compromised throwing shoulder probably wasn’t “the smartest, efficient thing” — but also that he would play hurt again if needed.

The quarterback also referenced his maturity several times.

“Now, being older, you kind of look at things different,” Newton said. “For me, it’s not that I’m limited with certain things, or that I’m not capable of doing certain things, it’s just other ways to do it.

“I’m not saying I’m not gonna run people over. I’m not saying I’m not gonna run the football. I’m not saying I’m not gonna throw the ball down the field. I’m just in a position now where none of that matters but one thing, and that’s winning football games. If it requires me to do all those things, I’m willing to do it. And if it doesn’t, I’m still fine with that.”

7 months, no interview

It’s worth noting that the local reporters who cover Newton and the Panthers have not been able to ask him questions regarding his offseason shoulder surgery or anything else in a press conference setting for more than seven months.

While Newton was under no obligation to do interviews during the offseason, local media members have made a request of the Panthers media relations department to make Newton available for interviews every day since July 24 — the day players reported to training camp.

When the quarterback does eventually do a group interview – likely on Wednesday or Thursday – he will be one of the last starting quarterbacks in the NFL (and possibly the very last) to answer questions from reporters who regularly cover the team.

The Panthers’ PR staff initially said Newton would be available for a group interview on Sunday, then shifted gears and made him unavailable to speak to local reporters. The PR staff still did make Newton available to King, who is one of the most well-known and respected NFL reporters in the country.

The NFL Media Access policy mandates that “all players and the head coach must be available to local media for interviews on a regular basis during the entire preseason period,” which is defined as at least once per practice week as well as after every preseason game.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told NBC Sports’ Peter King playing against New Orleans with a compromised throwing shoulder on Dec. 17 wasn’t “the smartest, efficient thing.” Jeff Siner

Roster notes

Wide receiver Chris Hogan didn’t participate in practice due to back tightness.

Ross Cockrell got a decent number of reps at starting free safety. Cockrell and Rashaan Gaulden are competing for the other safety job opposite Eric Reid. Cole Luke also got some looks at first-team nickel cornerback.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said of Cockrell: “First off, he’s a very smart football player and a very smart young man... I think we can utilize his ability to track the ball, play the ball, make a play on the ball. If the pass rush is what it is and can be, we’re looking for that guy that can make plays on the ball. We had that a couple years ago, the Super Bowl year, we had a safety (Kurt Coleman) that had nine interceptions. You want that type of a guy back there.”

Backup quarterback Will Grier’s arm looked very live on a number of deep passes Monday. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson caught one of Grier’s throws in the back of the end zone – one-handed – and then ran right into Panthers general manager Marty Hurney.

Some good hustle was exhibited by veteran Bruce Irvin, who was fast enough on one play to run down Christian McCaffrey and poke the ball out.

Former Panthers safety Roman Harper visited practice.

The Panthers are off Tuesday and then return for practices in Spartanburg on Wednesday and Thursday before the annual Fan Fest in Bank of America Stadium on Friday. That practice starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, with the proceeds going to charity.

Carolina Panthers linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin hustles to catch running back Christian McCaffrey during practice Monday in Spartanburg, S.C. Irvin poked the ball out. Jeff Siner
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Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for the Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also is the host of the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth.”