CHARLOTTE – Given all he's accomplished and how he's handled those accomplishments, Cam Newton has more critics than he deserves.
Newton, however, has no intention of criticizing his critics, no matter how much they might deserve it.
"I've come to this point in my life with I've been faced with so much good, bad or indifferent that I try to check myself if I'm trying to judge somebody," Newton said Wednesday as he continues preparations for Super Bowl 50. "I think we are all guilty of it at times, but if we look in the mirror or look in our own closet, we see that we're not perfect. There was only one person who walked this green earth who was perfect, and we know who that is. That's not Cam. That's not you. That's not anybody.
"If you look at anybody's situation, you can say something about it. For me to be in the position I am today, when I hear someone say this, that and the third about whatever, I'm like, 'OK. Well who are you? What did you do? If I try to dig up something on you, I'm pretty sure I can find it.' But that's not who I am."
While Newton has decided to bite his tongue on calling out those who question him, he did share a theory on why some question him. A model citizen since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Panthers in 2011, Newton has broken the mold on the quarterback position, developing into the slam-dunk choice for league MVP this year as a player with all the quarterback skills but also the physicality of a linebacker and the speed and shiftiness of a running back.
And, by the way, he's black.
"I'm an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen anything that they can compare me to," Newton said. "I remember when I was working out for the draft, I would see the Senior Bowl and see these guys out there busting their tails to try to get drafted, to try to have a job to provide for their family or themselves. And there I was, doing exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, and when I look in the mirror, it's me.
"Nobody changed me, nobody made me act this certain way. I'm true to my roots, and it feels great. Yet people are going to say what they want to say, and if I'm in this world living for that person who is going to say this or that, then I can't look at myself and say I'm Cam Newton because I'd be living for (my critics)."
Head coach Ron Rivera, the third Latino coach in NFL history, obviously doesn't advocate race playing into the perception of his quarterback, who incidentally could become the third African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
"I don't think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback – I think he wants to be known as a quarterback - a great one at that - to be able to transcend those boundaries, which I think is great. That's what it's about," Rivera said. "I'm kind of in the same boat. Somebody wants to tag me as a Hispanic head coach; well, that's great but the truth of the matter is that I just want to be tagged as a head coach because it really should be about your merit more so than anything else, about what you've accomplished and what you've done. That's how we should judge people."
And whether race plays into it or not, Rivera also doesn't think Newton should be judged on the personality he brings to the game. That sentiment actually stands for his entire team, and Rivera suggests that fans who want it both ways probably can't have their way. In his mind, the Panthers wouldn't be good enough to be in the Super Bowl if they weren't allowed to be themselves.
"I'd like to believe (the criticism is about) his personality more than anything, the idea that you should be stoic when you play this game. But I think a lot of people disagree, a lot of people think you should come out and have fun," Rivera said. "This is a kid's game that we're playing. I know there's a lot of money involved, but at the end of the day it's about entertaining and having fun. If you're not enjoying yourself, don't play the game; it's that simple.
"A great example is that we lost at Atlanta because we didn't play the way we played the rest of the year. So I told our guys, 'Keep your personality and who you are. If people don't like us, well that's on them.' At the end of the day, you have to love people for who they are."
While Newton, for his part, has no plans to criticize his critics, he does have one thought on silencing them. Conveniently enough, it's the same thought that drives him whether he's been criticized or not.
"Find any way to win a football game," Newton said, "because when you win, that gives them something else to talk about."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their departure for Super Bowl 50.