NEW ORLEANS -- Cam Newton wore a navy blue suit with a bright orange tie -- his old Auburn colors -- as he formally received one more national award for his extraordinary 2010 college season.
The NFL’s top overall draft choice by Carolina could not have worn official Panthers gear to the Manning Award ceremonies Friday even if he wanted to because of the league’s ongoing lockout. Still, he spoke confidently about the work he’s putting in on his own to get ready for his first pro season.
Being barred from working at team head quarters with his new coaches while NFL labor strife drags on is “nothing that I’m worried about right now,” Newton said.
“One thing that I am worried about is to try to focus on learning as much as I can come time that the lockout is lifted,” Newton continued, adding that he had a chance to get a copy of the Carolina play book when the lockout was briefly lifted by a judge on April 29.
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“It’s a lot of material that I do not know, but each day I’m going in and learning something,” Newton said. “So by the time the lockout is lifted and I get a chance to talk to (offensive coordinator Rob) Chudzinski and (quarterbacks coach Mike) Shula and meet back up with the team, I’ll be on top of my game.”
Named for former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, the Manning award is given annually to the nation’s top college quarterback.
Newton, who also was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, flew in to pick up his award from Bradenton, Fla., where he’s been working out at the IMG Institute and refining his game with former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.
Newton said he starts his days around 7 a.m. and often ends around 7 each night. He begins with treatment for any soreness lingering from previous workouts. His days also include conditioning and at least an hour or two of work with Weinke, a former Panther himself.
Manning, who also attended the ceremony, said he believes Newton is a “tremendous” athlete with the requisite motivation to be successful in the NFL. Yet Manning, speaking from his own experience as a pro and from following the careers of his former Super Bowl MVP sons -- Peyton and Eli -- said it’s hard to predict how long it will take for Newton to fulfill his promise. He added that it might take longer than usual because of the lockout.
“It’s unfortunate for Cam and other quarterbacks who went in the first round, if (their teams are) counting on them to play,” Manning said. “Chances are it’ll delay their time to play. It’s always tough to throw a rookie in, even more so to throw him in without having these spring minicamps and workouts.”
In the long run, though, Manning said his expectations for the 6-foot-5, 248-pound Newton would be as high as anyone’s.
“He’s got great size. He’s got everything you want,” Manning said. “He had one of the most phenomenal senior years. That doesn’t mean anything except that he’s got the talent. The main thing is, somebody’s got to want to be good and work at it, and he seems to have a really great work ethic. There’s no reason he won’t be an outstanding player. It may not happen in Year 1. You don’t know when it’s going to happen. A lot of times, when you get picked first in the draft, you’re going to a team that’s not too good.”
At Auburn, Newton took snaps out of the shotgun in a spread offense that gave him opportunities to run and pass. He threw for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 20 more in the Tigers’ 14-0 national championship season. In the NFL, he’ll take more snaps under center and probably scramble less.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me. I think it’s just timing more than anything,” he said. “Just repetition as far as me knowing what I have to do, knowing the assignment, the alignment and what everybody’s doing on that particular play.”
Newton also will be in a division, the NFC South, where the other three teams have highly regarded quarterbacks in the Saints’ Drew Brees, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman.
“It’s somewhat of a hotbed as far as the talent level” at quarterback, Newton said. “Those guys have already somewhat set the bar. I’m not going to put added pressure on myself, but just (try) to get comfortable in (Carolina’s) offense and try to prefect it as much as I can.”