CHARLOTTE - Cam Newton proved a week ago that he's a quick study.
Now, they're hoping that as the new quarterback continues to build familiarity with the Panthers' offense, that they can develop on some of the work he's put in and the talent he obviously still has for moving the ball.
While his coaches have talked in reverent tones about his rate of retention, the reality is he's still very new here. Playing a full game with a week's worth of practice in a brand new offense (without the benefit of OTAs or training camp) was impressive in and of itself. Performing the way he did (two touchdown passes and a touchdown run, with no turnovers in the loss to Washington) was even more so.
But as he has since he's walked in the door, Newton deflected questions about the time he's spent so far, keeping his focus ahead of him in advance of this week's trip to face the Dolphins.
"I'm done talking about what it's been like, and I'm all about what talking about what it's going to be. Or what I'm doing moving forward," Newton said Friday. "We're here, we have an issue in front of us right now, and that's the Miami Dolphins, and we're going to need all hands on deck moving forward."
Asked if there were particular areas he felt he could improve, he echoed the words of head coach Matt Rhule from earlier in the day.
"It's just a constant reminder each and every day to get better," he said. "Coach spoke beautifully today about competitive stamina, and holding yourself to a standard each and every day, not just when it's going good, not just when it's going bad every single day. So that's been my mentality with pretty much everything."
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When Newton walked into the Arizona game, he had what amounted to one practice worth of exposure to a system he's never run before. So the focus that week was on getting him up to speed on their red zone and goal-line packages (in case you forgot, it worked). Last week against Washington, they worked to isolate a percentage of the game plan he felt most comfortable with, and zoom in on those plays.
It's a little-bit-of-everything approach, like a successful Thanksgiving plate.
"It's kind of day-by-day," offensive coordinator Joe Brady said Friday. "We're installing the game plans. And we always preach putting players in a position to have success, and figuring that out, including Cam in that. Finding out things he does well, and incorporating that into.
"But for us to go from day one of training camp and think we have time to teach all these plays, that's what training camp and OTAs are for. So we're kind of doing everything on the run, and he's doing an incredible job. He's showcasing his process and his work ethic and how intelligent he is to grasp it all so quickly."
Brady said he's been impressed with how quickly Newton has picked up the concepts, in addition to the details of getting the basics accomplished - like getting plays called and getting the team in and out of the huddle, to the cadence to get the ball snapped.
"At the end of the day, and Cam will be the first to say, all that matters is winning," Brady said. "But for him to go out there last week and be able to function - and not only function but have success in an offense he's been in for four days and not come out of the game, I think is a testament to his work ethic.
"His process is incredible, how intelligent he is, all that stuff. A lot of things don't go noticed, but just how late he stays here. Talking to him the night before the game, how much he grasps, how much he understood the why of what we're doing. It was fun to get a taste of how great Cam Newton is."
Yes, about that.
Newton's talent is clear, and has been for a decade. He's walking in new, but the first complete game showed that he's still more than capable. In fact, the way he played served as a bit of a lesson for the team, as Rhule has preached about cleaning up penalties since last week's loss.
Asked what the next step for Newton was as he learned this place again, Rhule's eyes lit up at the possibilities of Newton and a talented cast of weapons led by Christian McCaffrey.
"I want to see us have no penalties on offense and see what happens," he said. "We had no turnovers this past game. Let's have no bad snaps. I want to see us not have penalties, not have bad bad bad catastrophic plays, and watch how the talent takes over. DJ Moore is getting better right now. Robby Anderson is getting better. Tommy and Ian (tight ends Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas) are getting better. Christian's playing at a really high level. I want to see all that come full circle and come together. we've certainly seen spurts of it. . . .
"I say all that to say, I don't want to see anything different from Cam. I want to see him keep doing his job, and his special traits will show up. DJ, Robby, Christian, keep doing the little things at a high level and watch how that all of a sudden becomes an overnight sensation, and all of a sudden, we have a really good offense."
Newton has some familiarity with this week's opponent, facing them twice last year when he was with the Patriots (splitting the two games). He knows they're going to blitz him, and has spread the word to his new teammates to expect the same thing.
"We just have to be prepared," he said. "Every guy has to have the wifi password on offense, and just be connected so to speak, to really understanding what the job is, and executing to the best of their abilities."