Late in the fourth quarter, cameras caught the Panthers’ franchise quarterback sitting alone on the bench, looking completely disinterested as backup Derek Anderson handled garbage time duty.
Superman had met his kryptonite.
However, things went from sad to just bizarre when Newton took the podium for his postgame press conference, refusing to open his eyes while answering questions.
The pity party did not go over well with receiver Steve Smith, who openly criticized Newton for his behavior using some “unchoice words.”
“I watched D.A. and Jimmy (Clausen), they don’t play in 20-something games last year,” Smith said, via the Charlotte Observer. “And they get up and they observe and learn and get those mental reps,” Smith said. “I told him, ‘You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk.’ ”
This wasn’t an unusual occurrence for Newton, whose towel-over-the-head routine began last year during losses and evidently carried over into his second season. Smith said he’s “more concerned about Newton’s development as a person than as a leader.”
“Cam Newton has a very unique opportunity to be a franchise quarterback to an organization that needs one,” Smith said. “Statistics don’t lie. Athletic quarterbacks, they either excel or they fail. And I told Cam that.
“This is an opportunity for him to learn – at that time they were benching him – and observe. They put D.A. in. You can sit there, if this is the worst is going to get you’re in for a long day and this is not what it’s about.”
Though Newton, a team captain, is immensely talented and possesses eye-popping measurables, he still struggles with bouts of immaturity and negative emotions, which teammates tried to curtail last December. Apparently, they remain unsuccessful.
Fortunately for the 23-year-old, this should be an easily correctable issue, especially with a lot of football left to be played. But when a well-respected, five-time Pro Bowl veteran like Smith, whose experienced more downs than ups during his 12 years with the club, begins calling you out, it’s high time to grow up.