Newton downplayed the criticism he received last week from Smith, saying he and his Pro Bowl receiver are still “on good terms” entering Carolina’s showdown at Atlanta on Sunday.
Smith told reporters last week he chided Newton on the sideline last Thursday night for sulking during the closing minutes of Carolina’s blowout loss to the Giants.
Newton, 23, reacted with a shrug of the shoulders in his first interview since the incident, saying he didn’t read anything special into Smith’s actions.
The quarterback said he views the 12-year veteran receiver as “a big brother” who’s always giving him advice on football and life – and the Giants game was just another example of that.
“Steve Smith talks to me every single day,” Newton said. “And obviously it’s a teaching moment, so to just single something out like that is kind of bogus for me. Because after this meeting he’s probably going to say something to me. I look up to Smitty as if he’s my big brother, and he has a very big impact on how I play and just having a mind-set because he has done it and has lived it.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he doesn’t mind Smith mentoring Newton, but would have preferred the team captain kept the conversation private.
In hindsight, Smith agreed.
“Sometimes when you try to help, you do more harm than good,” Smith said.
When asked why he’s so hard on Newton, Smith paused before replying.
“It’s because I see the impact he can have on this organization,” Smith said. “The impact that I don’t think I can ever have. The quarterback position is a whole different ball game. It really is. I see something in him that few men have, I really do. I really do.”
“As Cam’s career keeps going, I want to be able to look at my kids and say, ‘That’s a man you can watch.’”
The incident stemmed from Smith’s reaction to seeing Newton sulking on the bench after the second-year quarterback was benched late in the game against the Giants. Smith said he felt Newton should have stood up and supported backup Derek Anderson and taken some “mental reps” so he could learn from his own mistakes.
In Smith’s words, he “lit into” Newton.
Smith defended his actions at the time by saying “If I am afraid to say something, who will? The same way if I’m afraid to teach a son from mistakes, I can’t expect somebody else to be that.”
He later added, “This is more than about playing football. It’s about becoming a man.”
Smith said he doesn’t foresee any problems moving forward.
“We’re good,” Smith said. “Hey, I look at Cam as a big little brother. You’re going to fight. You’re going to spat. But you’ll always be able to come back to it.”
After three games Newton is 23rd in the league in passer rating and the Panthers are 1-2.
Proving Rivera know his team. The coach said during training camp - as Newton goes, so go the Panthers.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said there will be rough patches for any quarterback, regardless of age, but is confident Newton will get through it.
“That’s part of the deal, that’s part of every NFL quarterback’s maturity,” Ryan said. “I went through it and I think everybody has gone through it. And I think I will go through it again. There are ups and downs throughout a season and throughout a game. I think he’s probably of the same mindset I am - that you keep your head down and keep working.”