Newton, Tigers start title game preparation

Cam Newton and No. 1 Auburn finally got to return to the

football practice field – sort of.

The Tigers (13-0) and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback

began preparation for the BCS national championship game against

Oregon on Saturday night. But they’re doing it on the soccer field

while their regular surface is being redone across the street.

Coach Gene Chizik said the move across the street doesn’t

disrupt the routine.

”If we’ve got to practice in a parking lot,” he said, ”we’ll

practice out there.

It might be a welcome respite for Newton after a seven-day

whirlwind when he collected the Heisman, the Davey O’Brien Award

and the Maxwell Award, read the Top 10 list for David Letterman and

appeared on ”Good Morning America.” And before that, he dealt

with a pay-for-play investigation by the NCAA.

Newton can focus on football again.

”It’s been kind of crazy for me lately, but I’m embracing this

whole process: Practicing for the bowl game,” Newton said. ”Just

being around the guys. That’s what I’m used to. It’s been fun so

far. I look forward to preparing for this football game.”

The Jan. 10 game in Glendale, Ariz., is still more than three

weeks away. The Tigers will practice three more times before

breaking for Christmas on Wednesday.

And Newton has come back to normalcy after returning from trips

to New York City and Orlando.

”He handled himself exactly the way we’d have wanted him to,”

Chizik said. ”He’s handled himself with his teammates, coming back

and being one of the guys. I think he appreciates being that. I

think the team appreciates him being who he’s been for 13 weeks. He

hasn’t changed a lick.

”I think he’s ready to get back into football, ready to get

back with his team. I think he’s done a fabulous job of handling

all that stuff.”

And now the team has to handle the national championship hype.

The Tigers have moved into this position with eight

come-from-behind wins and a 56-17 rout of South Carolina in the

Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 4.

Linebacker Josh Bynes said they aren’t getting carried away with

the situation.

”We’re not letting any magnitude of the game, being the

national championship, get to us,” Bynes said. ”It’s not like,

‘Oh dang. The national championship. Oh, wow.’ We’re more like,

it’s the next game, it’s the next team on the map that we know

we’re going to have to defeat. We’re 60 minutes away from being

crowned national champions. But we have to play ball first.”