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3 Carolina Panthers turn Charlotte Touchdown Club appearance into standup act

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gives everyone at his table a fist pound after his name was called to come on stage. The Charlotte Touchdown Club in sponsorship with Electrolux presented the 2015 Carolina Panthers Kickoff luncheon at the Westin hotel on Friday.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gives everyone at his table a fist pound after his name was called to come on stage. The Charlotte Touchdown Club in sponsorship with Electrolux presented the 2015 Carolina Panthers Kickoff luncheon at the Westin hotel on Friday. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Ryan Kalil, Cam Newton and Greg Olsen addressed the Charlotte Touchdown Club Friday. When the NFL’s opening day approaches, the Carolina Panthers annually send players to the club.

Newton the quarterback said the players on stage are his lifelines. Kalil the center protects him. Olsen the tight end saves him. Eye contact is all that’s required.

“Greg, uh, hey, it’s third and 8,” Newton said. “Uh, Greg, make a play. Benji (Kelvin Benjamin) is out so, Greg, make plays, sir.”

Olsen talked in a calm and professional manner about life in the huddle, about how Newton is going to him and nobody else and how he owes it to the quarterback and the team to run the route and make the catch.

“That’s the PG-rated version,” Newton says.

Newton described the real huddle. He said the clock is ticking down and he calls the play and Olsen talks and he calls the play and Olsen cuts him off and Olsen says call out the play and Newton says he’s calling the doggone play and 80,000 fans are screaming and Olsen tells his quarterback he needs to send receivers to clear out so Newton can go to him.

No, Olsen said into his microphone.

Many Panthers fans are wired tight because of preseason issues real and imagined such as dropped passes and other life-altering and season-shattering catastrophes.

But the players, who sat on a stage in a Westin Charlotte ballroom, are loose and easy and funny.

Newton said you can tell that that when Olsen was growing up he was coached by his father.

Said Newton: “He still gives me this middle school clap like, ‘I’m open.’ Nine times out of 10 you know when he’s open because he gives you that clap.”

Olsen, who has played the straight man, got a laugh when he said: “Nine times out of 10 I am open.”

As Olsen and Newton debate, Kalil becomes the responsible adult.

“I’m the only one that keeps (Newton) level headed probably of all the guys on the team,” said Kalil. “When he starts feeling his whole, ‘I’m Cam Newton’ kind of thing I’ve got to come in and shoot him down. Everybody else is like, ‘Oh, Cam, you’re so awesome. You’re so great.’ I got to bring him down. I promised his mom I would bring him down.”

Kalil turned to Newton.

“I got to keep my promise to your mom so that’s why I bust your chops every day,” Kalil said. “If you don’t like it you got to talk to your mom.”

Newton does. “My mom’s here,” he said.

Jackie Newton, mother of Cam, stands.

Asks Newton: “Did you say that mom? Mom?”

When the three men leave the stage they meet the media in a Westin hallway.

Newton gets the first two questions.

“Is this just a Cam interview?” Olsen asks. “We’re just flanking you because we look good in our suits?”

I ask Newton what the huddle is like, really.

“It’s not serious at all,” he said. “And when you got guys like this, characters, like this, it keeps it rather interesting. As long as we have a lighthearted approach, but as long as guys get it and bring professionalism and are ready to go, that’s the only thing we care about.

“And everybody brings something different to the table as far as attitudes because we’re from different places. He’s (Olsen) from New Jersey. He’s (Kalil) from Cali, where guys are weird. And you know I’m from Atlanta, where they don’t make better people.”

Panthers employees announce that the brief interview has ended. But Olsen continues to answer questions.

“Greg,” said Newton. “We have to go, Greg. Greg. Greg. Greg. Greg. We’re ready Greg. Greg, we’re waiting on you.”

Now, this is funny. Why is this funny? This is funny because no athlete in Charlotte history takes longer to clean up after a game than Newton does. Countries have been toppled in less time.

Said Newton: “We’re waiting on you. We’re always waiting on you. Greg. We’re waiting.”

Olsen, Newton and Kalil will be here all week. On Saturday, they’ll head to Jacksonville.

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