Cam Newton's Worst Game Followed By His Best Press Conference

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"I’m frustrated bymy lackluster performance."

After throwing three interceptions that put Carolina’s defense in an untenable situation that resulted in an embarrassing 34-13 loss to the New Orlean Saints, Cam Newton may have had the best post-game press conference of his career.

Newton’s press conferences have always been a focus of discussion that often results in divisive reactions from fans and the media. His unique attire, that at times verges on ridiculous, his occasional misuse of words, and his propensity to sulk after difficult losses cause many to claim that Cam Newton is spoiled and egotistical. “Mr. Mopey Head” as Ron Rivera described him early in his career. Cam’s attire Sunday, as usual, was flamboyant and while he occasionally misspoke, the points he made remained clear. Newton put the burden of this loss on himself, the pressure he put on the defense, and in what he described in his attempt to “force find a spark, but as you saw that wasn’t the way to do it.”

“I put the defense in some screwed up situation,” Cam owned. Newton, however, didn’t shrink or gravel in hopes of currying favor, but he did what people have chastised him for failing to do after poor performances in the past--shoulder the responsibility. “Things on the offensive side have to be better, and I’m proclaiming it will.” Newton consoled, “There’s no need to panic... I’m frustrated by with my lackluster performance, knowing that we are better than the performance of the last couple of weeks. “Just be patient, Newton urged, “knowing that big things are ahead for us.”

Questions concerning Newton’s poor performance quickly turned to Julius Peppers decision to remain in the locker room throughout the National Anthem. Peppers absence was in response to President Trump’s attacks about recent political activism during the anthem by players. Newton, who in the past has been criticized for both being too politically outspoken by some and ridiculed by for placating, handled the moment well.

In the month prior to the Super Bowl, Newton shared some beliefs that linked criticism to him as a player and his race, stating,“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”  After the Super Bowl loss, Cam stepped back from his remarks. In his most public interview with GQ, he deflected, “I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. It’s not. Like, we’re beyond that as a nation.” If Cam had been too blunt in January for those who didn’t think race matter, he was too reserved for those who believed it does the following season. 

Sunday after an embarrassing loss, Newton once again had to face political questions centered on race in America after President Trump zeroed in on anthem protests in the NFL. “Wouldn’t you like to see one of these NFL owners to say, when someone disrespects our flag, to get that son of a bitch off the field. He’s fired!,” Trump yelled in a speech Friday urging fans to boycott the NFL.

NFL players and organizations shunned the President’s calls for people to boycott the NFL by engaging in various displays of unity and support of those who believe that anthem protests are necessary. Panther players agreed to stay out of the fray, but Peppers felt that he had to stay behind in support of NFL players protesting throughout the league. “Some of the remarks [referring to the President] were unacceptable, especially in certain people's position.” He tried to bring the conversation back to football, noting stating, “We need in society work as a whole. We need work on this team in performance and production.” “I’ll stay in my lane, but we are all entitled to our own opinion and it has been  an epidemic [racial injustice] in this country for a long time, Newton followed. “We can’t just point the finger and point blame, but with my pinnacle I promise to do things that gain awareness in my own right.” 

Cam won’t please everyone in his remarks concerning the President’s remarks and anthem protests. He played it down the middle pretty well. He supported his teammate Julius Peppers decision to remain in the locker room, he articulated his dissatisfaction with Trump’s comments, and he reassured his interests in social issues while keeping his eye on football. It’s about all he could do to be himself while staying focused on football.

At the end of the press conference, Newton was asked about Ron Rivera’s decision to go for it on 4th down. After fielding questions about his poor play and politics,Newton handled questions about Riviera flawlessly.  “Whatever Coach Rivera decides to do, I’m with it 110%, Newton defended without hesitation. Newton justified the decision based on the same logic Rivera did in his press conference. “It’s still early,” he observed, and there was “no a need to panic and force it,” much like he had at times throughout the game. Again, Newton shouldered the responsibility for the loss and promised that things would improve.

In the past, losses like those against the Saints would have thrown Newton off-kilter, leaving him battling his emotions about his poor play publicly. While Cam was off his game on the field Sunday, the emotionally charged aftermath didn’t. “As I grow in this game and each and every gameplan each week, I have to know when to check the ball down and do it in an accurate way, and I feel if I play better the outcome is different. The onus is on me,” he concluded. Newton’s game Sunday shows he acknowledges he has to play better to for this team to be successful and the following press conference shows he is growing as a player.

By Tony Dunn
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