Panthers quarterback Cam Newton addressed a wide variety of subjects Tuesday in his press conference with us reporters -- including Colin Kaepernick, Christian McCaffrey and his younger brother Caylin’s performance in a huge upset over the weekend. Here are excerpts of what I found most interesting that Newton said, edited for clarity and brevity:
Q. Was it hard for you to see Kelvin Benjamin go through the loss of his mother?
A. You don’t want to see nobody go through it. But like we say, my hat goes off to him and just the job that he has done, keeping it all in the road. You know some days you know it’s getting to him. I try to give him as much space as possible. I know the coaches have done a great job with knowing the situation at hand.
I feel like we’re going to get the best Benji. This is going to be his best year. I’m not just saying that to blow smoke. ... He’s positioned himself to make that come into fruition.
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Q. How has training camp and the preseason been for you, since you haven’t thrown in many of the practices and games coming off shoulder surgery?
A: Different. ... I’ve been getting a lot of mental work. ... It could have been very boring for me. But yet (quarterback) coach (Ken) Dorsey has been doing a great job, staying on top of finding ways to challenge me in the classroom as well as on the field without throwing the football.
Q. You have worked a lot on conditioning and changing your diet the past few months. How pleased are you with where that is at right now?
A. I’m extremely pleased. But that’s all for naught if the on-field performance doesn’t shake out. I think I am doing every single thing that I can possibly do, that I can control, and with that alone, it gives you a chance.
Q. Your younger brother, Caylin Newton, led a huge upset win for Howard over UNLV over the weekend. What were your thoughts about that, and why wasn’t Caylin more highly recruited?
A. I was teasing Thomas (Davis, the Panthers linebacker who went to the University of Georgia). I said, ‘Man, listen. Georgia needs a winner and every Newton I know is a winner, you hear what I’m saying? They missed out on yet another one.’
Yet it’s not about that. He’s a very undersized quarterback (Caylin is about a half-foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Cam Newton, who is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds). But it doesn’t measure the heart that he has or what he brings to the table. He has that “It” factor to have guys follow him. That’s what you want in your quarterback.
… I’m telling him (Caylin) that, ‘You’re giving people hope.’ That’s a team that has probably been known for their band, you know? People are going to the football games to watch football now, not just listening to the band play. I’ve got my hands full with trying to follow up a great performance with him.
… When he went through his whole little recruiting process, he was getting so frustrated. And I could sense it. And for him to have more of an impact at a historically black college, where they overlook games like that, they don’t even make it to the newspaper, and for him to be on ESPN doing an interview? That’s really unheard of. I only can think of Steve McNair really having a splash like that.
Q. How is Christian McCaffrey going to help you and this offense?
A. What he brings to the table, what he brings to this team, is going to help this team. ... We didn’t draft him as high as we did for him to kind of grow up in this offense. We need him to be ready to go, A-OK, as well as to have Curt (Samuel, the rookie wide receiver) go.
Those guys – whether they are battling injuries or not – they are being forced into the fire, and we’re expecting big things from him.
Q. What will it be like to drop back and see options like McCaffrey, Samuel, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin?
A. It’s scary to even think about. But it’s up to me to execute.
Q. Have you noticed how thoroughly McCaffrey prepares himself before practices and games?
A. He’s like Greg Olsen. It’s like that Caucasian effect at the skill position for us. No racial slurs intended -- just the Caucasian guys we have on our team do an unbelievable job with preparing their bodies.
I mean 30 minutes before practice, stretch, muscle activation, hot tub, cold tub, hot tub, cold tub … more stretching. … I really think they are battling sometimes to see who can get looser than the other person.
Q. (Panthers head coach) Ron Rivera says he’s not sure what to expect from you because of the limited reps. Do you know what to expect?
A. Yes. We will put our best foot forward to win a football game. Try to find any way in the world, on that plane ride back from San Francisco, that we’re 1-0.
Q. What will it like playing in that stadium for the first time since the Super Bowl?
A. Who cares? It’s a football game.
Q. (Panthers safety) Kurt Coleman said you beat him into the building on a lot of days now. Are you preparing differently after last year?
A. I’ve said it numerous times. Last year was unacceptable. But I don’t want to make this about me. It’s a lot of guys who took offense (at a 6-10 record). Our fans are owed more. ... Everybody is owed more. … I’m making it my mission to be more consistent.
Q. Aaron Rodgers spoke out, saying Colin Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster right now. How do you feel about what’s being done to Kaepernick?
A. I really think it’s unfair. I think it’s unfair. Not to take any storm or glory away from this game. We’re trying to find every way to be prepared for the 49ers come Sunday.
But in my opinion, do I think Kaepernick is better than some of these starting quarterbacks in this league? Absolutely.
Should he be on a roster in my opinion? Absolutely.
Is he good enough to be on a roster? Is he good enough to be a starting quarterback? Absolutely. But our main focus right now is trying to beat the 49ers on Sunday.