CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Cam Newton sweated through a workout with his new Carolina teammates Wednesday morning, hopped a flight to Washington to meet the president in the afternoon, then quickly returned to make sure he attended the final player-organized workout Thursday.
As the Heisman Trophy winner prepares for the scrutiny of being the NFL's No. 1 overall pick, his work ethic, fitness and willingness to fit in are impressing his veteran teammates.
"He showed up every day early. He's working hard," Panthers linebacker Jon Beason said Thursday. "He's interacted well and he's shown some great leadership."
Newton is making the best of an off-season like no other because of the lockout.
He can't talk to Carolina's new coaching staff. He's forced to learn the playbook on his own. He doesn't have a contract. It's uncertain if top receiver Steve Smith will be his teammate. There is no indication how long of a preseason there will be.
And yet Newton is considered the key to whether the NFL-worst Panthers can contend.
Newton is upbeat and confident even as he acknowledges the NFL is not college football.
"Preparing as a quarterback in the NFL is completely different," he said. "The terminology, the blitz schemes, and at the end of the day, you're not playing freshmen anymore. You're playing grown men. This where speed comes into play at all times."
Newton's chiseled 6-foot-5 frame stood out as he wore shorts and a T-shirt without sleeves on Thursday morning, the only day reporters were allowed to attend the workouts. He was one of the first players on the field before 8 a.m. He caught punts before lobbing passes. Left tackle Jordan Gross said Newton has won several conditioning contests.
"Cam has really just come in and kind of kept quiet," Gross said. "He had fun with the guys and tried to fit in and earn respect and doing things right. He's thrown some great passes, gotten under center, been vocal with his cadence when we've done our team offense stuff.
"Overall, he's just shown he's in shape and willing to work hard."