Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sprinting, a blur of red and neon, to the endzone during the team’s mini-camp on Wednesday.
There was no ball nestled in his arm, and there was no play being run. But Newton ran anyway, shouting all the way.
When he made it to the end zone, he leapt into the air. His teammate, running back Fozzy Whittaker, was waiting. Newton leapt into the air with Whittaker, or maybe onto him. Either way, it was clear why the quarterback had run all the way from midfield.
Whittaker scored. Newton was just celebrating the best offensive play of the day.
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The score came on a deep wheel route, which left Whittaker matched up on defensive end Kony Ealy. Whittaker streaked down the sideline, Ealy tailing him, as Newton lofted a pass into his waiting arms.
All Whittaker did was catch it and keep running.
“That’s just operation,” Whittaker said of the touchdown. “Just trying to make sure that we’re all testing each other and getting better each and every day.”
With starting running back Jonathan Stewart still nursing a lingering foot injury from Super Bowl 50, Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne split the majority of reps Wednesday.
In addition to his long touchdown, Whittaker had another notable run where he cut through the defense and darted around the right corner.
“It was good to see Fozzy,” coach Ron Rivera said. “His speed really flashed out there.”
For Whittaker, it’s all part of perfecting his role with the Panthers. While he only rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries last season, he had 26 yards on four carries in the Super Bowl.
The trick now, he said Wednesday, is getting better.
“I’m just trying to be a better back – a more complete back – than I was last year,” he said. “Whatever situation that they bring me down – third down running the ball, being a pass catcher out of the backfield, blocking, picking up blitzes, special teams.”
If Wednesday’s mini-camp is any indication, he’s doing just that.