SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Cam Newton was asked Monday afternoon if he was going to add to his Superman celebration that gained so much national attention last season.
His reply: Hmmmmm, stay tuned and youll see.
There are many other reasons to stay tuned regarding the Carolina Panthers and Newton, last seasons NFL Rookie of the Year.
Newton seemingly began preparing for this season as soon as last season ended. He studied tapes of all 16 games from last fall during the offseason, picking apart every little mistake he made.
His intent is to improve every day and, thus, avoid any kind of sophomore slump. Good luck finding a teammate who doesnt genuinely believe in the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. And who knows a quarterback better than the men assigned the job of protecting them?
Cam is better than I ever thought hed be when we drafted him, left tackle and 10-year veteran Jordan Gross said. You hoped for a certain level of success out of him and he went above and beyond that last year. The leadership qualities he has are outstanding, just what you want your quarterback to be. His work ethic is great, physically, mentally and all of that.
Even though Carolina finished just 6-10 a year ago, an improvement of five victories from the 2010 campaign, center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page ad last week in the Charlotte Observer guaranteeing a spot in the Super Bowl. Kalil wouldnt have made such a bold statement if not for the presence of Newton.
Newton joked he wanted to take out an ad in the Spartanburg paper because his boom box was taken from his locker, so he asked Kalil how much it might cost. All jokes aside, and Newton was certainly full of them Monday, the second-year quarterback is all business when it comes to getting better and winning football games.
If Newton can elevate his game, that would be something given last seasons numbers. The former Auburn Tiger completed 60 percent of his 517 pass attempts for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He became the first player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards and run for 500 in a season and set an NFL record with 14 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
No wonder most everyone around these parts sees no ceiling for Newton.
The sky may be the limit for this young man, head coach Ron Rivera said.
That includes more than just running and passing the football. Newton has the personality and confidence to be the face of the franchise and a leader in the locker room. Its something that slowly came to him last season, but has now become a greater priority.
Its already a given with certain positions in this league where leadership comes with the person, Newton said. I play quarterback, and thats the most scrutinized, criticized and critiqued position in all of sports, I believe. So when you play this position you have to have a certain amount of leadership everybody looks for whether you want it or not.
Perhaps the most impressive thing anybody has said about Newton since training camp opened Saturday came from Gross. Hes worked with several quarterbacks with varied experience, but in Newton he sees a natural for all that can be positive about the Carolina Panthers.
He just fits in so much better right now as a teammate in the locker room, Gross said. He knows what hes doing out there now. Hes calling the plays quick, making adjustments, calling the pass protection, which is something that last year he didnt have a big grasp on. If he continues to improve like that its going to be more and more fun to be on a team with him.
Hes made believers in his teammates.
And what did Newton think of Kalils Super Bowl ad?
We back Ryan 110 percent, said Newton, who was wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap. Nothing that anybody else on this team does we have no choice but to back them. Im not going to stand up here and say he shouldnt have did that, because with 32 teams everybody wants to win the Super Bowl. So, were not going to hide or anything.
Everybody on this team backs Ryan Kalil from the coaches to the players to the management to the janitor to the fans. If youre on this ship youre going to back him.
And theyre going to back Newton, too.