CHARLOTTE – The Panthers' bye weekend allowed quarterback
Now that it's over, Newton intends to take a very adult approach to the rest of the season while holding tight to his childlike love for the game.
"It gave me some time to reflect and look back over the years at this lovely, wonderful game that I play," Newton said. "Looking back at my career, it's easy to just say you won, but I think I got kind of veered off of what it took for me to get to that level – just the small things with preparing for each and every game, valuing each and every possession."
Last weekend, Newton rode go-karts. This weekend, he wants to make sure the Panthers avoid going nowhere fast.
Last weekend, Newton visited a haunted house. This weekend, he wants to exorcise the untimely errors that haunted the Panthers over the first five weeks.
Last weekend, Newton played video games. This weekend, he wants to play a picture-perfect game.
"I'm very eager to play on Sunday, but most importantly to get back to taking ownership day-by-day of playing this game and knowing what to do on each and every play and making it work," Newton said. "Everything that we want to achieve is still out there for us to achieve. We're going to take each day, each play by itself."
No one in the Panthers' locker room expected to be 1-4 entering the bye week, and no one is accepting of it. It led Newton to reflect over the weekend, but not so much on the last few weeks as on the last few years.
Newton won a junior college national championship three years ago, won the BCS national championship and the Heisman Trophy two years ago, and won NFL Rookie of the Year as well as four of his final six games during a rebuilding season a year ago.
Newton is the definition as a winner, a mindset he plans to lean on in the midst of a losing stretch for the Panthers.
"It's easy for a leader to stand out when you're 4-1, but it takes a courageous leader to stand up and still lead the troops to victory when you're 1-4," Newton said. "You have to look yourself in the mirror and find out who you are.
"At the end of the day, playmakers are going to have to make plays. When a play allows for something to happen, it's not a time to go into a shell. It's time for the flower to grow. That's the challenge for everybody."
While all eyes are on Newton every time he takes the field, he knows he isn't in this fight alone. He also understand the uphill nature of the struggle the Panthers face to turn this season around, but he's made it to the top before.
"With the competitive spirit of not just me but everybody in that locker room, it's a big challenge to see what we can do," Newton said. "Everything is still possible. This season isn't a wash, and it's time for us to prove it.
"There were a lot of expectations going into this season, and for us to pick up that vibe, it has to start this game."