Panthers WR Steve Smith was pleased with Cam Newton's attitude and work ethic last season, but he'll leave speculating on how improved Newton will be heading into next season to others.
"I just hope like every other rookie, like every other young guy, that he will put in the necessary work," Smith told PFW last week. "Because as a young guy, you get up in the morning, you work out and you think you've done something."
With 11 seasons under his belt, Smith — who is 10 years older than Newton — can share some lessons he has learned over the years with younger players, and he did so with Newton before the team broke for the offseason.
"The thing I've learned, and I told him, is 'What you need to do is get your workout in, go run, not literally, but figuratively, go run 10 miles, look at how fast you did it, change your clothes, start all over and do it one more time. If you do that, you may become a halfway decent football player.'
Literally or figuratively, 20 miles is a lot of work. Ten miles twice? Really?
"I'm just saying it's not a sprint," Smith said. "It's a marathon."
Newton is coming off a season that earned him 2011 Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America Rookie of the Year honors. He threw for a rookie-record 4,051 yards, set a record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (14) and became the first player in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards and rush for more than 500 yards in a season.
Heading into next season, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has said he wants and expects Newton to become more of a leader.
Newton drew criticism at times for his body language on the sideline. Everything from his facial expressions to the towel he sometimes would wear over his head while sitting on the bench was under scrutiny.
Rivera told PFW those things are not a major concern for him, though.
"I think it's overblown because of the way he communicates with his coaches on the sideline and the way he handles things," Rivera said. "I guess for image you'd want him to take the towel off (his head), but it's all part of his growing process. As he goes through this and as he learns this and understands it, I think he'll continue to develop who he is as a player and how he's going to handle things on the sideline."
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