Panthers QB Newton keeps proving critics wrong

Associated Press Modified: June 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm •  Published: June 13, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton remembers all of the criticisms.

He couldn't read defenses. He threw off his back foot. He wasn't accurate enough.

The Carolina Panthers second-year quarterback laughs them off these days with a knowing, confident smile.

"If I base my career off things people have said that I couldn't do I would have quit this game a long time ago," Newton told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "You can't listen to what the naysayers say about you because their opinion is just that — their opinion."

Newton is very secure in his own skin, not to mention immensely talented in a football uniform.

He wowed the naysayers in his first NFL season with a record-setting performance, eclipsing Peyton Manning's record for yards passing by a rookie and rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback. He captured AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and developed into one of the league's more popular players virtually overnight.

Now everyone wants to see what he does for an encore.

The Panthers went from last in the league in total offense prior to Newton's arrival to seventh overall last season. They finished 6-10 — a four-game improvement over the year before — but expectations are even higher this year given Newton has an offseason to work on his skills and gain a better working knowledge of coordinator Rob Chudzinski's ever-changing scheme.

There is no NFL lockout to contend with and Newton has been given time to digest some of the things that were thrown at him in rapid fire succession last summer.

"There were a lot of times last year I felt like I was guessing," Newton said. "That can happen in this league and sometimes it showed."

This offseason, he looks more confident.

"The neat thing about it is you see a lot of the different things we're trying to do and develop within our offense," coach Ron Rivera said. "Cam seems to be grasping those very well."

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton won respect from players and coaches around the league with his unmatched combination of versatility, power and speed, perhaps ushering in a new generation of NFL quarterback. He won the hearts of fans too, finishing as the runner-up to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the Madden 2013 cover.

In terms of statistics, he had one of the best seasons ever for a rookie quarterback. Yet he shrugs his shoulders when asked about them.

"Winning is all that matters," Newton said. "That's what we play this game for — to get the W."

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