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Newton can't wait to get started

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CHARLOTTE - After nearly 18 non-stop hours in the public eye as the newest member of the Carolina Panthers, quarterback Cam Newton completed his last of countless interviews by telling a gathering of staff and select fans that he's even more excited about being a Panther than he is about being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Then, having answered never-ending questions in a multitude of settings, Newton retreated behind closed doors and became the one asking the questions, meeting with his new coaches to begin the task of learning his new offense.

"It's not something that's going to be instant, like instant grits. It's more like collard greens, that need to sit and wait," Newton said. "But it's going to be a fun process, I know that. I'm just going to embrace this whole thing and see what happens."

Newton showed off his Southern charm to the media at large shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Friday at Bank of America Stadium, flashing a winning smile that everyone associated with the franchise hopes will translate to winning on the field.

He was then whisked away to a quick question-and-answer session in another part of the stadium where he delivered a similar message – "Fasten on your seat belts and let's ride" – before grabbing lunch and a plate-full of football talk with the coaching staff.

Some wonder if the Panthers have bitten off more than they can chew by taking a quarterback armed with just one year of big-time college football experience – albeit a remarkable year – in a spread offense.

Newton, for one, is champing at the bit to answer the questions.

"I'm very confident, and there's an old saying that hard work pays off," Newton said. "When anyone looks at Auburn's offense, they see somewhat of a simplistic offense, but you can't fault me for going into an offense with a coach that has that philosophy. It's my job to make the transition, to make everything run smoothly.

"Auburn was a spread offense, and (offensive coordinator Gus) Malzahn gave me the right to learn it as best as I possibly could. I would have done the same thing if it had been a pro-style offense or the Wing-T. It's my job as a player to make the most of my opportunity."

Carolina's unofficial relationship with Newton began after an eight-day stretch in January during which highly touted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck announced his decision to remain in school, the Panthers hired Ron Rivera as head coach and Newton decided to leave Auburn following his Heisman Trophy-winning junior season.

The official relationship began Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York, when the Panthers made him the first No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. Then, following a gauntlet of interviews, a pleasant text exchange with Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen, dinner and an extended celebration with family and friends, Newton landed in Charlotte a few minutes before noon Friday.

Rivera and General Manager Marty Hurney were the first to greet him, and Newton met briefly with Owner Jerry Richardson before his introductory press conference.

"Getting a big hug from Mr. Richardson makes it even more official," said Newton, whose visit to the team facility back on April 5 included a visit to Richardson's home. "Even before I met Mr. Richardson, it was curious to hear all the praises and all the respect people had for Mr. Richardson – people in the organization and people that aren't even in this organization. To meet the man himself, it became an understatement what people were saying.

"To see him and talk to him and go to his house and have a conversation about what my goals are and what I'm driven to do, from the looks of it he had the same things in mind. He wanted to know if I wanted to be great. That's something that was instilled in me at a young age, to not get complacent and always push myself to be better."

That push begins now.

"It's not something that's just going to happen from Day One," Newton said. "It's a process, a maturation and a transition. I'm ready to take that on and ride the roads to that.

"I'm trying to be the best. I strive to be great."

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