SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With a wry smile and four words, quarterback Cam Newton gave a uniquely perfect endorsement of his new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner.
“Norv,” Newton said, “is Boogie approved.”
Following Saturday’s training camp practice, Newton spoke to the media for the first time since Carolina fell at New Orleans in that thrilling Wild Card Playoff.
Many of the questions thrown at Newton concerned the direction of the offense under Turner, and rightfully so. The quarterback-coordinator relationship is one of the most important in all of football.
The fact that former offensive coordinator Mike Shula ran an extremely similar offense the last five years made the transition to Turner relatively smooth. But from a personality and chemistry standpoint, Newton and Turner are starting from square one.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Newton acknowledged. “I know he has high football IQ. You do as much research as possible and ask as many people about him as possible.
“The onus has been on him more so than us to take what we’ve already done good and expand on it, rather than ripping the sheets of paper up and (having) a ‘this is my way or the highway’ mentality. He’s been extremely easy to work with under that premise.”
Newton’s involvement in game planning and structuring the offense has increased every year since he was drafted first overall in 2011. He clearly appreciates Turner’s willingness to hear new ideas and adjust accordingly.
“He’s super relatable,” Newton said of Turner. “He’s a person who has been around this league and (been around) a lot of egos and a lot of different players. He knows how to adjust. That alone makes my job easy. He’s not a guy who is egotistical.
“If it doesn’t work, 'OK cool, let’s throw it out and let’s find something else.'”
As Newton readies for his eighth NFL season, the Panthers hope Turner can help him reach “the next level” as a passer.
A major point of emphasis for Turner is increasing Newton’s completion percentage, which stands at 58.8 for his career.
When asked if a completion percentage between 65 and 70 is a reasonable expectation, Newton said, “it’s a goal of mine and it’s certainly attainable.”
He knows the steps he must take.
“Just trusting certain things and getting out my own head sometimes,” Newton said. “Playing quarterback, you can overthink things. Just because I complete this one time, you may not think you can complete it again. Truth be told, you can do it as many times as the defense is giving it to you. That has to be my mentality. We have guys that can take a two-yard (completion) and turn it into twenty yards. Hopefully more than that. But it starts with me. I have to trust those guys and get the ball to them.”
Now, truth be told, Newton has said things like this ahead of previous seasons, and the words didn’t necessarily translate into action.
Perhaps Turner, a demanding coach with 32 years of NFL experience and two Super Bowl rings to show for it, can make it stick. Time will tell.
We can safely say this: Newton is having a terrific offseason.
Last year, he missed spring practices as he recovered from shoulder surgery and he was on a fluctuating pitch count due to soreness throughout camp.
This year, he enjoyed a spring of full participation. And he can let it fly with no hesitation here at training camp.
“It was very big for me taking the proper steps this offseason, knowing that I’m full go,” Newton said. “My body feels great. I feel great. And I always got to mention to TD that I even look great.
“I’m all smiles.”