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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Running commentary


CHARLOTTE - Many observers have been impressed by how quickly Panthers rookie Cam Newton has developed into a pass-first quarterback.

But one keen observer, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, said Newton actually arrived in Carolina as a pass-first quarterback.

"It was such a misnomer that he was a scrambling quarterback that runs," Rivera said. "He did not scramble to run; he scrambled to stay alive in the pocket."

In preparation for the draft, Rivera and Panthers general manager Marty Hurney watched every Auburn play from last season involving Newton, who passed for 2,854 yards, ran for 1,473 yards and accounted for 51 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to the national championship.

"We looked at every one of his throws, then we looked at every one of his runs to try to decide which one were scrambles and which ones were called," Rivera said. "Most of his runs were called runs, and his scramble runs were his last resort. The majority of the scrambles were throws – they weren't to tuck the ball and run."

Even though that's the case, Newton already has set the franchise record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 266, and he has tied the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback with seven.

"He's a stand-in-the-pocket, throw-down-the-field quarterback, and he's done a great job with that. But when he does get out of the pocket, that's got to scare a lot of teams defensively," right guard Geoff Hangartner said. "His ability to get out of trouble and make a play is amazing."

STAND UP AND CHEER: Newton got the Bank of America Stadium crowd going with a remarkable 25-yard run in last Sunday's victory over the Redskins, but he heard it from the crowd at other times as well.

"You saw those guys jumping offsides, and that's not something the defense was doing. It was in large part due to the fan support," Newton said. "We just have to continue to build on it."

The fans will get another chance to express their feelings when the Minnesota Vikings visit Sunday. The game is sold out.

"Nobody wants to cheer for losers, simple and plain, so we have to win football games to get the crowd into it, to give the crowd hope," Newton said. "And it's not a secret that we have extremely high potential."


FULL DAY FOR FULLBACK: Over his first five games with the Panthers, fullback Jerome Felton touched the ball twice.

Against the Redskins, Felton got the ball three times and made the most of it in some important situations.

"It felt good – kind of reminded me of my Furman days a little bit," said Felton, who owns the Furman school record with 67 career touchdowns. "The main thing was that we got the win – that's what matters the most."

On the Panthers' opening drive, which resulted in a field goal, Felton picked up a pair of first downs with a 17-yard gain on a short pass and a 4-yard run. Then midway through the third quarter, when the Panthers found the end zone to open up a 23-13 lead, Felton converted on third-and-1 from Washington's 22 with a 3-yard rush.

"They relied on me in a couple of short-yardage situations. The line did their part, and I was able to do that part," Felton said. "The pass out of the backfield, I've run that route 15 times since I've been here. Luckily, Cam saw me and they weren't covering me.

"It's good to get to show them what I can do."

Felton played his first three seasons with the Detroit Lions, catching 30 passes for 240 yards and rushing for 126 yards.


SALUTING CAPTAIN: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is the least experienced and the smallest member of the Panthers' starting secondary, but he's not playing that way.

"I always kid him, saying, 'You're that little dog with that big heart,' " Rivera said. "He's a physical player, and at times he gets a little too physical, even in practice. I have to remind him to be careful, but he plays the way you want guys to play – with an attitude."

Munnerlyn, a third-year pro out of the University of South Carolina, leads the team with seven passes defensed, is the only defensive back to record a sack this season and ranks fourth on the team with 28 tackles.

Munnerlyn is the only member of the starting secondary to be available for the duration of every game this season, and he's taken on added responsibilities of late.

"He's improved tremendously, and we've actually put a lot on him lately," Rivera said. "When we were missing Charles Godfrey for the Atlanta game, we had to move Captain to nickel. Moving from corner to nickel, people don't realize how hard that is. It's put a lot on his plate, but he's responded. He's done a great job for us."

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