Guerry Clegg

Guerry Clegg: Cam Newton needs to act like a professional

Cam talks to the media on Panther Check Out day at Bank of America stadium
Cam talks to the media on Panther Check Out day at Bank of America stadium

Newton didn't want to talk to the media Sunday night. He made that clear with his terse answers and then in his abrupt "I'm done, man" departure. Given a day to reflect, Newton had a chance to make things a little better, Instead, he made them much worse.

"The truth of the matter is I really still don't want to talk to the media," he said.

Here's the truth of the matter. Many in the media don't want to talk to Newton, or to any self-absorbed or just plain ornery sports figure. But they do it because it's their job to capture what is on the minds and hearts of the people who play or coach or officiate or govern the games.

You think Peyton Manning wanted to talk to the media two years ago after losing the Super Bowl to Seattle? But he did, and this is what he said:

"We played a great football team. We needed to play really well in order to win. We didn't come anywhere close to that. We weren't sharp offensively from the get-go -- turnover on the first play of the game to give them a safety, not the way you want to start a game. For whatever reason, we couldn't get too much going after that. Give Seattle a lot of credit. They're an excellent football team. I think they caused a lot of those mistakes. At the same time, we just didn't play very well."

What about Jim Kelly? He lost four in a row with the Buffalo Bills. But he manned up afterward each time.

So did Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood after that first loss, 20-19 to the New York Giants. Norwood's potential game-winner drifted right of the post. Afterward, Lynn Swann interviewed Norwood and, in their 90-second exchange, Swann tried to console him by saying, "You did a good job."

"Well, thanks Lynn. Again, I missed an opportunity for the football team. I feel badly, let a lot of people down. As you say, in this profession, you have to come back off times like this and I'm certain I'll do that."

Sure, Newton was devastated by losing. Was he any more devastated than Lebron James was after losing in the NBA Finals for the fourth time? James played his heart out. It was arguably the best performance in a losing cause on a championship stage of anyone in sports history. James manned up.

Newton isn't the first player or coach to be heartbroken over a loss and he won't be the last. His actions don't show how much he cares about winning. They show how much he cares about himself.

You might think it's no big deal that Newton essentially ducked out. Auburn fans have been defending him to the point of embarrassment. No, they don't have to pile on. Yes, they can still love him for being the great player that he is.

But defending his behavior out of sheer blind loyalty just doesn't make sense.

Newton is Carolina's leader. All the other Panthers had face the media and answer questions. It's part of the job. Why shouldn't Newton have to do the same?

"I'm human. I never once said that I was perfect. I never proclaimed that I was perfect, but at the end of the day, people pick and do things of that sort,'' he said.

Well, that's not quite true. He does hold himself up to be perfect. Newton wants to praise and the glory that come with being a superstar. But he doesn't want the criticism that comes with it. Can't blame him there. Nobody does. But Newton acts as if he's exempt from it.

The only thing Newton said after the game that had any substance at all was this:

"They just played better than us. I don't know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that's what it comes down to. We had our opportunities. It wasn't nothing special that they did. We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That's it. They scored more points than us."

Newton vowed, "We'll be back." Maybe, maybe not. Dan Marino probably thought the same thing when he led Miami to the Super Bowl at age 23. Marino never made it back to another Super Bowl. Newton is 26. But if he keeps crashing into linebackers and diving over the goal line, his body will wear out than most quarterbacks.

Newton must win a Super Bowl or this poor performance -- on the field and post-game -- will be his legacy. No matter how many touchdowns he scores or footballs he gives two little kids, Newton will be remembered for two things -- not diving for the loose football late in the game and his postgame behavior.

I'm not going to question his toughness or heart for not falling on that football. His judgment, yes. But not his heart or courage. He has showed plenty of both throughout his career. But the fact is that single play will be the one most remembered unless he gets back to the Super Bowl.

Some of the criticism of Newton has been over the top. So has some of the excuses made for him. He's still a great quarterback just hitting the prime of his career. But he has a responsibility to be professional.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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