Ron Rivera is sick of having to constantly defend Cam Newton

BY Teddy Mitrosilis • January 29, 2016

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Cam Newton these days, including former NBA great Charles Barkley and retired Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

The odd thing is that most of the public opinions seem to be so far off base, turning Newton into a polarizing villain when he's really a lovable guy who just enjoys playing football and giving touchdown balls to kids.

Because Newton plays with unbridled joy and overwhelming confidence, and because his inability to sugarcoat anything comes across as brash and cocky, Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he always feels in a position to have to defend Newton and he's getting tired of it.

"That smile is legitimate," Rivera told's Albert Breer. "People don't understand, that's who he really is. He's not hiding anything."

Rivera and Breer were discussing the Panthers' draft process in 2011, where Carolina took every possible measure to vet Newton as a prospect (like using Rivera's high school daughter as a spy) because there were legitmate questions about his maturity and character.

It didn't take long for the Panthers to figure out the questions weren't valid, but that didn't end the spread of rumors or criticisms. Five years later, Rivera is still dealing with them and it makes him upset.

"See, I reflect on it and I look at it -- people didn't take the time," Rivera told Breer. "I mean, we took the time and we got to know him. The hard part for me is I always feel like I gotta defend him. And I shouldn't have to. His actions should speak for themselves. Giving the ball to the kids? That was his idea. That's him."

With any lucky, this Super Bowl run will allow everyone to put their old Cam Newton concerns to rest and see him as a dude who loves what he does and is just trying to entertain.