It’s no secret the passion that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has for the game of football.
It’s apparent when his team is up in the fourth quarter and him and his teammates are dancing and smiling on the sideline.
And it’s even more apparent when his team isn’t. A towel pulled over his head with a scowl has been a common sight with the Panthers plummeting from a Super Bowl loss to finishing last in the NFC South.
It’s also no secret that Newton may be the most scrutinized player in the NFL.
Newton has come under fire for plenty of actions on and off the field during his career. From walking out on his Super Bowl press conference after refusing to answer many questions from media members to not to wear a tie during team travel early this season, violating team rules.
To Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, it’s simply the passion of a competitor and a much needed personality for the NFL.
DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“He’s just very outgoing, very animated,” McCoy said. “He’s a character, and you need characters. Even how he dresses, in style, you need that in this league — and in the NBA and NHL. In all these other leagues, you need guys like him.”
Though often criticized for his standoffish attitude sometimes, typically after losses, McCoy said Newton’s kinder side is often overlooked. For instance him finding young Panther fans at home or in visiting stadiums and tossing them a ball after a score.
“He’s a generous guy, too,” McCoy said. “The kids love him. He’s giving out footballs when he scores.”
Arguably the most criticized aspect of Newton this season, besides the tie, has been his play compared to an MVP season last year.
Newton had 4,473 total yards with 45 touchdowns last season leading one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, even without standout wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
This season has been a much different.
Newton has amassed 3,625 total yards and only 23 touchdowns with one game to go.
“People kill me sometimes when they’re expecting everything to be identical to the year before,” McCoy said. “You’re going to have some up and down seasons, but is Cam still the same guy? Yes, he is. He didn’t have the same year he had last year. Well he won MVP last year, so if he doesn’t win MVP this season than that means he didn’t have the same season.
“He’s still Cam, man. He’s still the best escape artist we got, because of his size, speed and agility. He can make all the throws and if you let him get on a roll, he’ll kill you.”
Despite a down year, Newton is still an electric athlete that a change a game at any moment. An athlete that has given Bucs’ defensive coordinator Mike Smith plenty of sleepless nights during his time in the NFC South.
“Lots of sleepless nights,” Smith said. “I’ve had lots of them in year’s past and this week as well. He’s a unique athlete; he’s 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and hard to get down. You say ok we’re gonna put a spy on him, but who are you gonna spy him with.
Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
“If you spy him with a guy that runs as fast as him, he’s gonna be six or seven inches shorter and 45 or 60 pounds lighter. It’s a dynamic that you have to account for.”
Newton will mostly continue to sit atop the list of most polarizing players in the NFL for the length of his career, but to McCoy, he doesn’t think he should change much about his game.
“He loves the game,” McCoy said. “I think sometimes people confuse his passion for anger or being frustrated. He’s just very passionate. And if you want to win, when things are not going your way, you get upset. He’s just a very passionate guy and I respect that.”
But when the McCoy sees Newton on Sunday with the Bucs’ playoff hopes still slightly alive, he’s looking to keep the smiles off of Newton’s face.
“He’s one of those guys that, he loves the game so much, when he gets on a roll and you start seeing that smile come out, that’s when you know you’re in trouble. We have to limit those smiles, man. We have to limit those smiles Sunday.”