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Strickly Panthers: Newton learns to lead

Posted Dec 21, 2011

CHARLOTTE - Where there's a will, there's a way.

No one can question rookie quarterback Cam Newton's will to win, and now he's figuring out how to best develop that into a way to win.

Newton said Wednesday that he realizes he hasn't always been the leader the Panthers need him to be from the first play through the last, but he took a positive step last Sunday at Houston thanks in part to veteran offensive linemen Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil.

"They always get on me because I have a bad, bad tendency of showing my emotions on my face. I have to change that, and I'm trying to change it," Newton said. "Those guys constantly stay in my ear, saying, ‘You've got to be that same leader from the first quarter to the last quarter.'

"Just that little statement being made before the game made me mindful that it can be a little detrimental to the team if you're mad and ticked off. I'm not saying that everybody else isn't feeling the same way you are, but at the quarterback position you have to stay even-keel."

Newton said he was over-thinking things earlier in the season and that he lost his rhythm at times as a result. But as Newton has figured out how to handle life as an NFL quarterback, Gross is among those noticing better results.

"Maybe in college it was easier for one guy to win a game. Now I think he understands that he's a huge part of what we do, but it takes a whole team to win a football game," Gross said. "He doesn't carry as much weight on his shoulders now as far as taking total responsibility for a win or a loss. I think that makes him a better player, utilizing his team and the tools he has around him."

Observing veterans like Steve Smith and Jeremy Shockey having fun while maintain focus is helping Newton reach his goals as well.

"I'm just trying to continuously get better and trying to be great in this league, whether it's taking the field like a champion or being a leader off the field – whatever it takes," Newton said.

CARPET BALL: Relentless rain forced the Panthers to practice inside Wednesday, specifically in a ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center, a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium.

"We used the biggest ballroom that they have. It was actually wide enough, and we were able to use it for about 60 yards, too," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "It worked out very well. We were able to get our entire practice in – didn't have to cut any reps or anything."

Equipment staff placed tape on the carpeted floor to mark off the "field" and also put cones around the room with safety in mind.

"That was the first time I've ever practiced in a ballroom – a new experience you can chalk up," safety Jordan Pugh said. "It was kind of a test for the team to stay focused. In a different venue like that, it can be distracting at times, but we practiced well and focused well."

COMING TO PASS: Second-year wide receiver Armanti Edwards completed an 11-yard pass to Smith in last Sunday's victory at Houston, a first for Edwards this season but maybe not a last.

"We're starting to get to that phase where that's part of what we are. We're still developing what we are," Rivera said. "We went through training camp with the idea of developing a quarterback and then developing the offense. Now we're at the point where we can see these tools that we have.

"Also, don't forget that there's just one football."

Edwards, a prolific quarterback at Appalachian State, was just happy to touch the football on something other than a punt return.

"It was pretty good to get to toss it a little bit. I'm a little rusty," Edwards said. "I'll take any opportunity I can to get out there on the field more."

KICKER UPDATE: Olindo Mare continued to handle kicker duties Sunday at Houston, making all four of his extra points while not attempting a field goal.

Rookie Adi Kunalic, signed to the roster prior to the Houston game after Mare struggled in the previous game, remains on the 53-man roster but wasn't active on game day.

"We wanted the two-for-one," Rivera said in reference to the team's desire to have a kicker that handles both kickoffs and field goals. "It looks like we'll still get the two-for-one on the gameday roster while keeping two on the 53-man roster."