Asked whether he and Smith have a rift, Newton insisted that they have a great relationship, and that Smith is mentoring him and helping him become a professional.
“Steve Smith talks to me every single day. And obviously it’s a teaching moment, so for you to just single something out like that is kind of bogus for me,” Newton said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Because after this meeting he’s probably going to say something to me. I look up to Smitty as if he’s my big brother, and he has a very big impact on how I play and just having a mindset because he has done it and has lived it. I have much respect for Smitty, and yeah he talked to me after the game, but he talked to me the day after too, and will probably talk to me again today. It’s nothing like when Smitty talks to me it’s a big deal because I feel like I can call Smitty on any case—on the field or off the field.”
Smith hasn’t always been the best teammate — just ask the guys he’s punched — but from all indications he has been a good mentor to Newton. And the fact that Newton welcomes the perspective of a veteran teammate is a good sign. Eventually the Panthers need Newton to develop into the kind of leader who doesn’t need Smith to tell him to stop sulking on the sideline, but for now this pairing seems like a positive for Newton, Smith and the Panthers.