SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A reporter asked quarterback Cam Newton hours before the Panthers' first training camp practice Friday if running back DeAngelo Williams was capable of producing a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2013.
"I think we have multiple guys that can carry the load and 1,000-yard seasons, but that's not the point," Newton said. "Y'all are looking through binoculars; I'm trying to look strictly through glasses. I'm looking for the present, for how we can hone in and be a better team right now."
Fans want Newton to lead the Panthers deep into the playoffs yesterday, but more than ever he's focused on today.
"The only thing that's on my mind right now is a three-letter word. I think ya'll know what that three-letter word is," Newton said. "Obviously we'll have expectations when the season comes, but we've got weeks for us to worry about that. We have to seize the moment – carpe diem – and make the most of it."
Everyone crowded around Newton assumed the word he was referring to was "win," but based on his 14 minutes with the media, any number of three-letter words could have fit the bill.
Understandably, Newton fielded numerous questions about his expectations for the season as a whole.
Newton's consistent message? All in due time.
"I'm just going to take one step at a time," Newton said. "It's easy for people to just shoot off goals that they want, but I think that would be cliché right now. For us, it's going to be hard work and dedication.
"We have multiple opportunities right now to hone in and sharpen our blades as far as mechanics and understanding the overall scheme of things. That's our main focus and what each and every person in training camp is thinking right now."
Newton had to be pleased with how the Panthers finished 5-1 last season and how he helped turn a disappointing start into a strong finish. But it all added up to a 7-9 record and no playoff berth, so Newton is harping on neither the slow start nor the fast finish to 2012.
"We're going to clean our slate," he said. "This is a brand new season, 2013, and that's what we're going to keep it at. Right now we're embarking on training camp, trying to start fresh and get good habits going into the season."
Newton is also embracing new offensive coordinator Mike Shula – in large part because the Panthers' former quarterbacks coach isn't really new at all.
"I feel like he's going to give us an advantage," Newton said. "Coach Shula knows the personnel as opposed to bringing in a new guy, and he's been unbelievable. He's been great with communication and being a players' coach."
Newton led the Panthers in rushing last season, the first NFL quarterback to lead his team in rushing since 2000. It's good that he has that kind of ability, but it's not necessarily the best thing for the offense.
"What we all will see is a much improved philosophy with running the football," Newton said. "While I've been here, there have been certain things done, but we're going to stick to somewhat of a traditional offense. To some degree, it takes a lot of pressure off me in the run game, but who knows?
"Our offensive line is healthy right now, and they're excited to get that chip on their shoulder and say, 'Hey, it doesn't matter who runs the ball. Coach Shula could run the ball and be a 1,000-yard runner.' "
Newton absolutely loves the game of football and is at his best when he has fun playing it. Newton also knows how to have fun away from the field and flashed that side Friday, joking about his clothing line as well as his chosen mode of transportation around the Wofford campus – a Segway.
"It's all fun and games," Newton said. "A week from now, when everybody's legs are done, I'll be taking some off my legs.
"That thing will get rolling at about five miles per hour."
Off the Segway and on the practice field, you can be sure that Newton will be going 100 miles per hour, doing everything he can – in his words – to "create great habits, sharpen my blades and come out each and every day trying to make myself better so I can make this team better."
Given Newton's immense ability, if he can accomplish those objectives on the level he seeks, perhaps another three-letter "word" could someday be associated with him.