Strickly Panthers: Newton positive about Panthers

CHARLOTTE – Rain pelted the practice fields at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday, but you couldn't tell from quarterback Cam Newton's sunny disposition.

"I feel great," Newton said. "We had a great practice."

It would have been understandable if Newton had a touch of the rainy day blues. The Panthers are coming off their first loss of the season, and nagging injuries have Newton spending more time than he'd like in the training room.

But Newton, in his second season as a team captain, is finding a silver lining in it all. When a reporter reeled off the list of injuries that have befallen the Panthers' backfield, Newton decided to give him a pep talk.

"Don't sound so demoralized. Golly," Newton said. "We've got guys looking forward to this opportunity.

"We can't look at it with a pessimistic attitude, with 'Oh, this person is hurt. What are we going to do?' You've got to be more optimistic. Guys have been playing their tail off, practicing to get this opportunity. It's time to make the most of it."

Newton passed that message to his teammates early in Wednesday's practice. When the offense broke the huddle for its first snap in team drills, Newton called them back to the huddle after they didn't display enough energy in his estimation.

"It's just a mindset," Newton explained. "This game is emotional, more than some people think. Coach's expectations, and as one of the leaders on this team, my expectations, weren't met. We've got to break that lackluster standard and create winning habits.

"Something as simple as breaking the huddle may carry over to making a catch that may spark something even bigger in practice. You never know how that may play out."

Newton, accused by some of trying to put too much on his shoulders earlier in his career, has come to fully appreciate the value that every moving part has on the offensive side of the ball.

He saw the negative effects of that in last week's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, when small breakdowns led to big problems. He hopes to see the positive effects this week when the Panthers visit the Baltimore Ravens.

"What happened in the last game, we can't take turns making mistakes," Newton said. "The unique thing about the offensive side, if one guy messes up, the offense looks bad. The unique thing about defense is if one guy makes a play, the whole defense looks good.

"If everybody is blocking, I make the right read, it's a perfect spiral and the ball is perfectly placed but he doesn't catch it, the offense looks bad. Or if he's wide open and I don't get him the football, then the offense looks bad. Playing on offense, focus is at a premium, being dialed in and focusing on each and every play because it's really about 11 people."

That type of cohesiveness is also important beyond the offensive huddle in Newton's way of thinking, and he thinks the Panthers are as strong as they've ever been along those lines.

"Right now, we are as close as I've ever seen us as a team, and that's refreshing," Newton said. "Everybody is understanding their role, and Coach does an unbelievable job of pinpointing that. We do something rather interesting. He calls people out and asks them, 'What do you bring to the table? How can you help us?' And it's not just players.

"We have an understanding of what a person does for us, from a water boy to an equipment guy. It's interesting to know because you realize this game was not just formed for us in 2014. You've got guys that are waking up at five o'clock in the morning to make sure we have an omelet station. Or something as simple as people making sure we have clean clothes or someone staying up until two or three o'clock to print out practice scripts for tomorrow. Those things only increase our want-to."

And Newton, without a doubt, wants to win as much as he ever has.

"You're not going to get a woe-is-me attitude," Newton said. "That's a losing attitude, and we're trying to flush that from our system. Our morale is high.

"I'm trying to have that winner's attitude."

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