In a light rain at Wednesday afternoon’s practice, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers offense broke the huddle for the first team drill and jogged to the line of scrimmage.
But Newton, the Panthers starting quarterback, didn’t like the way the other 10 members of the offense broke the huddle. There wasn’t enough enthusiasm, so he called the team back together.
Bent over, Newton called the play. As the 11 players straightened their backs, they clapped their hands violently and yelled, “Break!”
“It’s just a mindset,” Newton said later. “This game is emotional more than some people think. As one of the leaders on this team, my expectations weren’t met. We have to continue to break that lackluster standard and create winning habits.
“If it’s something as simple as breaking the huddle, that may carry over to making a great catch that may spark something bigger in practice. You never know how that may play out.”
That substandard play was on display Sunday against the Steelers. During the 37-19 loss, the offense went three-and-out in three of the eight series Newton played.
It would have been easy for Mother Nature to dampen the team’s spirits Wednesday, Newton said, but there was a need for more energy during the team’s first practice since suffering its first loss.
Newton said he felt “great” after practice, but he didn’t dispute the aches and pains that linger from his cracked ribs to his surgically repaired ankles.
Newton went 24 of 35 for 250 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers but had a career-low two rushes for 7 yards.
Those injuries have been one reason the team has been cautious running Newton.
“We’d be dumb to start throwing him out there and letting him run inside (the offensive guards),” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “We have to pick and choose when to do it, how to do it and where to do it.”
The Panthers had just 10 rushes for 42 yards last week, and everyone from coach Ron Rivera to Shula to Newton has said Carolina must run the ball more in order to be successful.
Asked if he needs to run for the offense to flourish, Newton repeated a common refrain.
“I’m all for doing whatever coach asks me to do,” Newton said. “If he tells me to run, I’m going to run. If he tells me to throw, I’m going to throw. If he tells me to carry out my fake, I’m going to carry out my fake.”
Newton continued with other orders that he would carry out, including blocking or even cooking a meal. While he made his point, Newton still has the ability to pull the ball down in passing calls and take off, as he has done for the past three seasons.
But in two games played, Newton has just four scrambles. He’s been sacked seven times and hit 13 times.
Still, Newton said he “absolutely” has confidence in his offensive line to protect him, his ankle and his ribs this week in Baltimore.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we as an offense will get this right,” he said.