Published July 30, 2011
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Cam Newton quietly walked around as cameras swarmed Carolina's new kicker Olindo Mare. Newton peeked out from behind a lens and asked his Panthers' teammate, "How hot was it today?"
Newton sure didn't act like a No. 1 pick shortchanged by the rookie wage scale.
The Heisman Trophy winner spoke Saturday for the first time since signing a four-year, $22 million with the Panthers. His deal was set by the newly bargained rookie scale that was part of the agreement between NFL owners and players.
Newton took a major financial hit as the draft's top selection, getting $56 million or so less than Sam Bradford's $78 million, six-year deal he got as St. Louis' No. 1 pick.
"It really doesn't matter," Newton said. "Either way you look at it, I've still got more money than I've ever had."
And Newton knows that he reaches his potential on the football field, he'll make up any financial disparity later.
"In this league, they set standards," Newton said. "If you play the way they're predicting you to play, you're going to be all right either way it goes."
Newton was eager to take the field for his first practice at Wofford College later Saturday and said holding out was never an option, even before the NFL lockout. He spent the time away training, working out with star Panthers receiver Steve Smith in some private sessions that proved to Newton the Panthers have plenty of offense despite last year's dismal 2-14 showing.
Newton hopes he can be part of that. He received the offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's playbook in April in the short time a judge lifted the NFL lockout. Newton's worked to learn what he can, but knows he can't really progress until he gets back on the field. He'll wear No. 1 at Panthers' camp with quarterback rival Jimmy Clausen wearing No. 2, the jersey number Newton wore at Auburn during the 14-0 national championship season.
Newton said he and Clausen talked about acquiring No. 2, but in the end thought it was best to start out fresh.
"Rightfully so, since it was his number," Newton said.
He and Clausen have a healthy, friendly relationship so far and both understand that the quarterback competition will make each one better for the Panthers.
"I don't want to give off a situation where we hate each other's guts and we're just out there running over each other," Newton said. "Jimmy is helping me and I hope I'm helping Jimmy. We want to bring out the best in each other."
There'll be plenty of people hoping Newton can bring the best out in Carolina's offense, which set a franchise low in points scored last year. The 6-foot-5 Newton knows he'll have some help with that starting with Smith.
The Panthers' sometimes prickly receiver had nothing but glowing reviews for Newton in their workouts, which apparently went a long way toward Smith wanting to remain with the team.
"I don't know about you guys, but I don't know that I've ever seen anyone like him," Olsen said of his new quarterback. "Watching him on TV is a whole lot different than seeing him in person. He just has that something about him, that confidence."
Newton's hopes he can carry that through camp and into the regular season. He said he's prepared to work as hard as possible to show he's ready for the NFL.
"It's exciting just to be around the football atmosphere again," he said.