By all accounts, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton works hard, has played hurt and played well, helping his team to the first back-to-back playoff seasons in franchise history.
But sometimes when he talks, he makes it easy to misconstrue him.
During an interview with Morgan Fogarty of WCCB in Charlotte, Newton said another one of those things — like “entertainer and icon” — which will be latched onto by his critics as evidence of something he may not actually be.
When asked if he was still one of the league’s “greatest unknowns,” Newton started talking and the words just fell together in the following perhaps-unfortunate order.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I say this with the most humility, but I don’t think nobody has ever been who I’m trying to be. Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, nobody had the intangibles that I’ve had.
“I’m not saying I’m the one-on-one type of person that this league will never see again. No, I’m not saying that, hear me out. I’m just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person.”
To be honest, he’s probably right. He has the mobility of a Russell Wilson, with the size and arm of a Ben Roethlisberger. But for all Newton’s grace — not everybody can wear white pants in the mud and save damsels in distress — sometimes he stumbles over his own words and ends up sounding more arrogant than he could possibly be.
And when he does, it makes him an easy target.
On the other hand, Newton can also sound incredibly gracious and self-aware.
For example, he said he still wears the hospital bracelet from last year’s car wreck, as a reminder of the temporal nature of his existence and the need to appreciate each moment.
And he was open about learning not to demand “instant gratification,” from his career, as he learns from his elders on the Panthers roster.
“So much of leadership is being a good follower as well,” Newton said. “And I look forward to hearing Thomas Davis speak. Watching how Ryan Kalil approaches the game. As well as Greg Olsen, [who] gets after it every day at practice.
“When I see those type of things each and every day, it makes me a better person [and say to myself] ‘Man, let me stop feeling sorry for myself and my nagging injuries and say you know what, I gotta do better. I gotta become that leader that I’m supposed to be.'”
Of course, that’s not as dramatic a sound bite, or as easy to use to pigeonhole him. Which is probably why you won’t hear it as often.