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Cam Newton putting pride aside, doing what he can

Cam Newton

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers haven't necessarily been bringing in a second quarterback because they wanted to. They've done it because an injury forced them to bring a new guy in off the street, and began teaching him a new system which changed play-callers a couple of weeks into it because things weren't going perfectly.

In short, there's a lot going on.

But Cam Newton has accepted his part in it, and is doing his best to both learn on the fly and fit in.

Asked Thursday about the job-share he's had with backup P.J. Walker lately, Newton shook it off the way he has most questions since he got here.

"You've just got to be a professional," Newton said. "Don't allow it to be a distraction, no matter what it is.

"I do what I'm told. It sounds kind of, . . . but it's true. I'm a player, and I gain guidance from what the coaches' plan is. I trust in the coaches' plan, whether it's coming from up top or even coach (Jeff) Nixon. Those guys come up with the plan, and it's in our best interest as a team to follow it as players and execute it to the best of our ability."

Because he's new here, and because it didn't go so well in Miami or against the Falcons, the Panthers have brought Walker in to run some parts of the game plan he's more familiar with, such as two-minute situations. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said he plans to use Walker this week as well, getting both quarterbacks ready for the Bills.

"Certainly, I don't want to be playing two quarterbacks, no one does," Rhule said. "But it's just the situation we're in, and we're trying to maximize where we're at right now."

That's also happening because Newton hasn't been his sharpest, and that's a big adjustment for a lot of people.

When you're a former No. 1 overall pick and a former MVP, the idea of being part of a platoon is strange on its face. But it's been a while since he was MVP, so Newton's not thinking of it in that context when he was asked if such an arrangement was difficult to swallow.

P.J. Walker, Cam Newton

"There's no pride," Newton said. "Pride is the devil. Don't let him get a hold on me. Pride is the devil."

He then reminded the reporters in the press room that was from a J. Cole song — as if they didn't know — and emphasized his oft-stated mission in his return to the Panthers.

"I'm just trying to find a way to win," Newton said. "I'm very comfortable. I came in comfortable. I think that's the issue now, is we need to start playing with a sense of urgency, and that starts with numero uno, myself.

"And I plan on playing with that. Protecting the football, taking the keys to the game, and executing. But enough of the verbals, it's time for the actions."

Newton has turned the ball over four times in the last two games, including an ugly loss to the Dolphins in which he completed 5-of-21 passes, and a better effort against the Falcons that was undermined by a pick and a fumble.

In his first two games (Arizona and Washington), he completed 77.4 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and no picks and a 125.3 passer rating.

In the last two games, he's completed 45.5 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and three picks, and a 37.1 rating.

So when they've found themselves behind, turning to Walker has been justified beyond the simple familiarity, but play-caller Jeff Nixon said Newton was getting closer to the point of being able to play in those situations.

"He's close," Nixon said. "Cam has been fantastic. His work ethic, the way he prepares for a game, it's been awesome. He's getting better and better each week. And I'm looking forward to him getting better and better on the field, and being a force for us on Sundays.

"I think we have enough in the game plan, that you feel comfortable that each quarterback can function in the game plan that particular week. We do that, certain things just up for Cam, and certain things we might have up just for P.J., depending on each particular week. But at this level, especially with the quarterbacks we have, we feel that especially in the passing game, they both know the offense and know how to read defenses and get us in the best play possible to go out and perform and help us win."

Rhule said he saw tangible progress in the passing game last week — other than the turnovers — but Newton shrugged that suggestion off as well.

"Just doing my job, man," he said. "Not looking for no pats on the back, just looking for a win. So whatever it's going to take for a win, that's what I'm willing to do."

And if that means letting Walker take some snaps in two-minute situations because he's more comfortable with it, so be it.

"I mean, it's a process," Newton said. "I don't know what other way to say it, other than just maximizing the things I can control. I don't get into what it looks like, because a lot of people who have the most to say aren't in that locker room.

"It's up to me to uphold my end of the bargain, and to protect the football, that's number one. And just to execute to the best of my ability, and if that happens, I just allow coaches to do what coaches do. And that's scheme up and put us in the best position to win."

Because for Newton at this juncture in his season and his career, that's what matters most.

View photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to face Buffalo.

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