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"Onus still on" Cam Newton to spread ball around

Posted Sep 13, 2017

Carolina's quarterback won't go an entire season targeting Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin just a few times per game.

CHARLOTTE -- There were plenty of things Cam Newton didn’t want to talk about on Wednesday. 

Like what he saw on a couple of his runs during Sunday’s win over the 49ers: 

“I don't know. It's irrelevant now.” 

On the Bills picking up former teammates like quarterback Joe Webb and fullback Mike Tolbert: 

“I could care less what another team does.” 

And what it will be like to face former defensive coordinator-turned-Bills head coach Sean McDermott: 

“You guys are making (too much) of it. It's just another team.” 

But Newton was willing to chat about the Panthers' still-developing offense that features more weapons than the quarterback ever had in his previous six seasons. 

“It's pretty exciting, but the onus is still on me to find ways to get the right people the ball,” Newton admitted. “Knowing that whatever the play call is, I'm still on a constant battle internally with me to try and gain Coach's trust as well as my teammate's trust. Just like if I was a rookie, knowing that I'll make the right decision and most importantly prove to myself that I'm capable of doing certain things that I see other quarterbacks doing.” 

Because it's nearly impossible for an NFL game to go by without something getting blown out of proportion, much of this week's hand-wringing has centered on how much Christian McCaffrey was involved against the 49ers. And conversely, how little guys like tight end Greg Olsen and wideout Kelvin Benjamin were involved. But as head coach Ron Rivera reminded:

“You don't show your entire hand in the first game.” 

Still, it’s fair to wonder if Newton ever feels pressure to spread the ball around.

When asked in previous seasons, he’s answered such questions with an “I just take what the defense gives me” reply. This time, though, he was willing to admit that part of the job isn’t always easy. 

“Yes and no,” Newton said when asked if he ever feels like he has to get certain guys touches. “In years past I've had that approach. But now I leave that solely up to the play call. 

“When that play call is called, it's up to me to go wherever the defense dictates the ball to go – not picking any favorites, not picking any type of person that hasn't touched the ball yet.”

Against the 49ers, McCaffrey finished with a healthy 18 touches while making a team-high five receptions on seven targets. When targeting seven others, Newton went just 9-of-17, including a 3-of-9 line to Olsen and Benjamin. 

“Guys all want to have the ball in their hands and make plays,” Rivera said before assuring Newton wasn’t just locked in on McCaffrey. “The thing that was very pleasing was he spread the ball around this week. He threw to eight different receivers, which I think is big. When you do that, you take a lot of pressure off the other guys.

“Who do you cover? Who do you double? Who don't you double? How much man do you play? In which situations do you play man?”

Those are now questions for McDermott, a foe who knows the Panthers well but who doesn’t know the Panthers with McCaffrey. And that’s one of the reasons Newton had no interest in reminiscing about his team’s former coordinator. 

“I have all respect for Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills,” Newton said, “but as far as how their team is being constructed and whatever, my plate is already full being the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.”