CHARLOTTE – There are many times when Cam Newton doesn't like talking about himself. His first game-week press conference of the 2019 season was one of those times.
Because reporters hadn't talked to the Panthers' quarterback since he sprained his foot two weeks ago, the first question he got Wednesday was about what happened in that preseason game against the Patriots.
"(I'm) focused on the Rams," Newton replied.
Ok, but how does he feel going into this season versus years past?
"I don't want to dwell on something that's irrelevant or doesn't need to be talked about," Newton said.
But clearly, how the team's most important player feels is relevant, so it does matter that Newton isn't even listed on this week’s initial injury report.
"He's in great shape," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's mentally where we need him to be. He had a really good day. He threw the ball very well a couple days ago when we had practices and he's been very sharp."
For those times when Newton hesitates to be introspective, it usually helps to ask about teammates. So he smiled for a question about Curtis Samuel:
"Curtco is a person who is a very vibrant person. The energy that is around him is contagious."
And DJ Moore:
"Denniston, on the other hand, he could be in the room with you for a whole two days and he won't even say nothing to you. But he still will be productive."
And Christian McCaffrey:
"An outlet, safety valve, rescue button, life harness, an easy button, 'ol go-to."
And Joey Slye:
"I told him two weeks ago, and he's been playing this humble role, but I told him, 'You keep kicking the way you're kicking, you're going to kick yourself right into a job.' And that's what he did. ... He may have the least body fat in a kicker in the last decade of kickers."
All which loosened Newton up for more questions about — himself. Because as much as he may want to deflect, the Panthers by and large will go as he does. And time sure can fly. It's almost hard to believe that Sunday starts his ninth season.
"But I feel like a rookie again," Newton said. "I'm having fun, feeling good and the thrill is still there, man.
"I'm blessed just knowing that you've just got to sometimes put everything into perspective. Just two or three days ago, grown men cried. People getting unexpectedly cut, released, traded or whatever."
Newton then referenced his older brother, who went undrafted as an offensive lineman out of Tennessee State in 2009. For the next three years, Cecil Newton bounced on and off practice squads in Jacksonville, Green Bay and Baltimore while also serving a stint with the Hartford Colonials of the since defunct United Football League.
"I'm just lucky to be a part of a fan base and organization for these same nine years. A lot of people can't say the same," Cam Newton said. "(Cecil) always reminds me of that.
"So for me, being Year 9, I'm just as humbled to have the opportunity, and I want every time a person see me play, talk, whatever — I want them to see the joy as if it's Day 1 cause that's how I feel."
Perhaps part of that feeling stems from the shoulder procedure he had at the start of the offseason and the throws he can now make that he couldn't in 2018. But Newton also credits his diet.
"Vegan strong. That helps a lot," he said.
"I've been vegan all year, and I don't think I'm going back. Feel good, I recover well, and that's what it's pretty much all about — not putting certain things in your body that's going to combat your body from trying to recover."
So everything's looking great. Newton's in a good place physically and mentally and the sky seems to be the limit. Right now, at least.
"Everybody's optimistic right now. Holla at me around Week 4, Week 5," he said. "Everybody's feeling like they're doing the things that nobody else is doing. They feel as if they're the team that's going to win the Super Bowl. At this particular point in time, I want to say it publicly — I could care less about the Super Bowl.
"I just want to be 1-0 by the time I'm seeing my kids after the game."
View photos from Wednesday's practice in Charlotte before the Week 1 game against the Rams.