CHARLOTTE – With each passing game, the talk of Cam Newton for NFL Most Valuable Player intensifies. For Carolina's quarterback, there's no time to even think about that, much less talk about it.
"It's irrelevant to me right now," Newton said.
Newton's message has always been consistent – it's about the team. This team is 14-0. And in Newton's opinion, this team is the reason he's having so much individual success in 2015.
"It's a culmination of guys making plays and (me) feeling comfortable in the pocket. Everybody is doing their job," Newton explained. "Offensive football is the ultimate team sport. You need all 11 members to do their job."
But there's no denying Newton's brilliance this season. He was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this year, the most in a single season in franchise history. He's thrown five touchdown passes in two of the last three games, giving him a career high 33 on the season. He's come through in the clutch, leading game-winning drives against the Saints and Giants in recent weeks.
Newton hesitates to call his improvement a result of increased maturity. Growth by way of experience is how he describes it.
"It's just growth. I can't even attribute that to maturity," Newton said. "As long as you keep seeing the game and certain situations, you are going to grow. It's also confidence, I can tell you that."
Confidence comes from preparation. And that's the area of Newton's game that has maybe grown the most.
"I can remember when I was early on in this league I would hit a wall," Newton said. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I just wish every day was Sunday.' But now, you get into a rhythm.
"I have to take these type of notes, I have to look at movement keys of what makes this cornerback different than another cornerback. Why is this person coming in on this particular package? I have to be alert for it. It's overall growth and understanding of trying to perfect your role and create an edge for us to win on Sunday."
For head coach Ron Rivera, the eye-popping production from Newton is the culmination of a diligent process.
"We went through five years of him being developed as a player," Rivera said. "Learning and growing and putting the time in – making the effort to do things the right way. Now, we are starting to see the benefits of it."
Sure, an MVP award could be waiting for Newton at the end of the 2015 season. But for the Panthers quarterback determined to be 15-0, there's only time for the present.
"We are living in the moment," Newton said, "and making the most of it."