Apparently, the statute of limitations for ripping a rookie anonymously is right around a year.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com quotes a number of unnamed players saying Newton acted like a diva last year at the Pro Bowl, turning down an autograph request from one player, and that he apparently “dissed” Ray Lewis at another point.
That apparently triggered a higher level of intensity from AFC defenders, in a game where effort was rumored.
“He was a total —-hole,” one AFC player said. “Who did he think he was? He acted like the big [expletive]. Here he was at his first game and he acted like he was the star. Guys didn’t like that.”
Another player added: “It didn’t matter who it was, he didn’t care about anybody but himself.”
Stop. The. Presses. Professional athlete in his own world. God forbid he had a tattoo.
Newton’s a big boy, and doesn’t need defending. But as the first pick in the 2011 draft, it’s been open season on the kid since he walked through the doors at the combine. And the fact he’s playing for a team in a tailspin only makes him an easier target.
He carries himself differently than some players, and he’s made some questionable decisions (“entertainer and icon,” unveiling a clothing line after a bad loss, etc.). But according to multiple co-workers with the Panthers, players and front office alike, he’s made a conscious effort to present a different image this season, even as coaches try to press him into a leadership role that he may not be ready for.
He’s also played more efficiently of late, not that you’d notice. He’s accounted for eight touchdowns with no turnovers the last three games, and 12 touchdowns and two turnovers the last five. So while there’s a perceived sophomore slump, he’s actually playing better lately, as the team sags around him.
The Panthers are in the middle of an avalanche that’s going to result in many changes in that organization, from top to bottom.
But guys taking shots at him for his behavior almost a year ago seems as misplaced as folks in Charlotte who were all in a bunch because he put a towel over his head earlier this year.