CHARLOTTE – Yes, Cam Newton wants to win them all.
But more than anything, Newton wants to win it all.
So, on the seventh play on Friday night's preseason game against the Patriots when Newton saw green grass in front of him on a third-and-9 but then saw defenders closing in, Cam was conflicted.
"A lot of things were going through my mind, but most importantly I was thinking to myself, 'Man, it's preseason. It's preseason. What do I do? What do I do?' " Newton said. "I wanted to get a first down, but I wanted to bring this plane in as smoothly as possible."
The landing anything but soft, the turbulence of cornerback Jonathan Jones' tackle putting Newton through a spin cycle that landed him briefly in the concussion protocol. He remained sidelined for just four plays, but evidence of the mid-air collision remained after the game in the form of a shiner to Newton's left eye that he said he could still feel growing.
"Back in middle school I had one of these," Newton said, "but you should have seen the other person."
The only thing worse than a serious injury to a starter in the preseason is a serious injury to the starting quarterback. And Newton's effort – which did net a third-down conversion and kept alive a tone-setting drive in a 25-14 victory – certainly caused concern for his coach.
"I always worry about him," head coach Ron Rivera said. "But that's him. He plays to win."
Newton said his uncompromising competitiveness can be a curse at times – as it nearly was Friday – but more often it's a gift.
"I only know how to play this game one way," Newton said.
Yes, Newton has a one-track mind when it comes to winning, but he's not a one-trick pony. And this preseason, with another year under his belt and a new offensive coordinator with several notches in his belt, Newton appears to have more ways to win at his disposal.
"I just want to win. That's it. That's all I want to do."
That was Newton's response when asked about his completion percentage of 68.4 through three preseason games under the guidance of Norv Turner. Aside from last year's 2-for-2 preseason performance when offseason shoulder surgery curbed his playing time, Newton's best preseason percentage was 57.1 percent in 2014.
"My job as the quarterback is to move the ball down the field. However it comes, I'm a fan of it," Newton continued. "Whether it's me running, throwing, blocking, catching – whatever."
Plays like Newton's nearly ill-fated scramble may be his trademark, but they're not where he makes his biggest mark. His legs are legendary and the list of highlight-reel runs they've produced over the years are staggering, but the more subtle benefits of his mobility are what really keep the offense moving.
"That's always been a part of his game," Rivera said, referring to Newton's ability to keep plays alive by bouncing around in the pocket before delivering with his arm. "I don't think he gets enough credit for his movement trying to find receivers downfield. He did a very nice job with that tonight."
Tight end Greg Olsen offered an example. Facing a third down in the two-minute drill at the close of the first half, Newton hit Jarius Wright for the conversion before he and Olsen teamed up multiple times to set up a last-second field goal.
"Me and Torrey ran into each other, but Cam is able to buy time, buy time and then throw it to Jarius," Olsen said. "Those are huge plays that I think sometimes get lost."
Lost especially on a night like this, when fans held their collective breaths at the sight of the Panthers' pilot putting himself in harm's way in the preseason.
"It was a lot going on. A lot of malfunctions from the cockpit," Newton said. "Buttons were getting stuck. Oh my goodness, it was bad. It was real bad."
Except of course, and fortunately, it wasn't actually that bad after all.
"I'm fine," Newton said. "I'm just going to find a lot of ice on this off-day and soak it in."