‘Hurt’ Newton willing to shoulder blame for Panthers’ woes

Panthers QB Cam Newton (2,100 yards passing, 12 total TDs), who was sacked nine times on Monday night, has had trouble escaping pressure this season -- the partial result of rib and ankle injuries.

Eric Hartline

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s been the prevailing sports-talk question in Charlotte and throughout the nation this week:

What’s wrong with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after he, and the entire team, put forth a lackluster performance against Philadelphia?

Newton looked bad throwing the ball against the Eagles, continuing his erratic play for the season. His mechanics were awry, leading to awkward tosses off the back foot — essentially what happened in the former No. 1 overall pick’s first two NFL seasons (2011-12).

To be fair, Newton did it last year, as well, but not nearly as much.

Newton also has this air about him during times of adversity, as if he doesn’t care or is simply going through the motions. That’s another trait of his first two seasons — when Carolina opened both campaigns at 2-8.

Earlier this week, there were media reports that Newton has an injured right foot, to go along with his surgically repaired ankle and fractured rib. Newton insists those maladies have nothing to do with anything.

"That’s not an excuse for me not to be playing the type of football that I haven’t been playing," Newton said on Wednesday. "I’m not playing great ball right now, but it’s still not lingering in my mind. I know we’re past due for a great game. That optimism is getting us through each and every day."

Nevertheless, Newton admitted there are issues with his body and how he feels. But, again, he didn’t use it as a reason for uneven play.

"Hurt is hurt," said Newton, whose 3-6-1 Panthers have claimed only one victory since Week 3. "If you’re asking me if I’m hurt right now, yeah I’m hurt. I haven’t felt 100 percent in a long time. But is that my excuse on why we’re on a losing streak? No, absolutely not.

"Is Cam Newton hurt? Yes, I’m hurt. And that’s all honesty. But can I play? Yes, I can play and I will be playing. It’s mind over matter."

All the sacks and hits Newton’s absorbing from opposing defenses certainly haven’t helped the injuries. He was sacked nine times Monday night (against Philly) — but some were his fault and not that of the offensive line.

As such, a sometimes-reticent Newton has begun anticipating hits — even when there’s no imminent danger in the pocket.

Newton says that’s not him.

"It can’t (feel fake pressure)," he said. "That’s what separates the good quarterbacks from the ones that aren’t so successful. You have to be able to stare down a barrel and complete a pass. You can’t have happy feet or be gun-shy standing in the pocket because at the end of the day it’s all about trust."

Newton says all the talk about the offensive line and his injuries and play will all go away with a simple remedy.

"I have to find ways to win football games," Newton says. "If I do that, we won’t be having these type of discussions about injuries. I know it call comes down to me. I’ll be the first person to admit that I haven’t been playing great. I know that. I will take that responsibility."