SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Joe Person, The Charlotte Observer) A calm settled over the Carolina Panthers’ training camp Tuesday, a day after the $103 million franchise quarterback fought the team’s top cornerback.
Following an incident-free practice that featured no discernible trash talking, quarterback Cam Newton sought to defuse the situation with Josh Norman by saying there was no bad blood between the two players.
Newton expressed no regrets about Monday’s fight and said the incident would serve to make the team stronger. He also dismissed the idea that, as the Panthers’ franchise quarterback and biggest investment, he needs to avoid situations that put him at a risk of injury.
“I think we’re making a big deal out of nothing,” Newton said. “It’s no need for me to tell you guys what happened outside of we are better because of it.
“After speaking with the team, after guys coming up and approaching, it’s a lot of things that was said that was in the moment. I’ve seen the video that people posted. But at the end of the day, it’s not for the world to know what the Carolina Panthers are doing.”
About 10 minutes after Newton finished with the media, news broke that New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith would be sidelined 6-to-10 weeks with a broken jaw after being sucker punched by a teammate in the locker room.
If Smith’s jaw didn’t underscore what might have happened to Norman or Newton had the fight carried into the locker room or the Wofford dorms, it at least removed the Panthers from Position A in the 24-hour sports news cycle.
The outspoken Norman was not made available to the media for the second day in a row.
And while Norman and Newton had jawed throughout the first week of training camp, Newton said there are no hard feelings between the two. He said reporters only see their exchanges on the field.
“Of course I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, Josh your cleats are cool.’ No. You don’t see when I’m talking to Josh right here,” Newton said. “You don’t see when I’m talking to Josh in the dorms. So of course you guys are going to report of course Cam doesn’t like Josh.
“I see this guy every day. I’ve seen that No. 24 has become better and better each and every year. And I know I have a feeling this will be his best year yet.”
Newton threw in Norman’s direction several times Tuesday. He completed a couple of the passes, Norman broke one up and another sailed over the head of Kelvin Benjamin, who was covered well by Norman.
Norman came up toward Newton on a scramble, but coaches blew the play dead before any contact was made. There was no chirping between them.
As he did at the start of camp when addressing questions about his offseason activities, which included participating in an Aussie rules football trip and playing in a flag football tournament, Newton said he wouldn’t succumb to public pressure about how he leads his life.
Asked if he would do it again, Newton said: “Do what again? Practice hard? Yes, I practice hard each and every day. I have no regrets of things that I’ve done.”
He also outlined what he intends to do next.
“What’s the blueprint of a franchise quarterback? Leading your team,” Newton said. “I’m not going to let no one dictate how I play. I’m not going to let no one dictate how I feel.”
Panthers coaches and players were ready to move on from the fight Tuesday.
Tight end Greg Olsen scoffed at the notion that the 6-foot-5 Newton risked getting hurt in the fracas with Norman, who’s 6 feet tall and 195 pounds.
“I think everyone needs to stop overreacting,” Olsen said. “He’s 265 pounds. He could be 275 pounds if he wanted to. He’s one of the biggest guys on the team. He carries the ball 15 times a game like a running back. I think a little hand-slapping fight with a DB in practice, I think we’ll be OK.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t “put the kibosh” on trash-talking, adding that players likely realized they needed to tone it down.
“Obviously, (Monday) wasn’t a good situation for us, and as far as I’m concerned the situation’s over,” Rivera said. “If it goes on, I’ll address it as it happens.”
New contract or otherwise, Newton doesn’t plan to change, including his approach to practice.
He’ll continue to trade playful barbs with linebacker Thomas Davis, run from drill to drill and, if he has to, get in a shoving match with a defensive back who stiff-arms him after an interception.
“I know you guys want to make a story about the scuffle. And ‘We’ve never seen a franchise quarterback involved...’” Newton said. “Yeah, but there’s a lot of what I do that is not prototypical. You know what I’m saying? We have fun. I enjoy doing what I do. And that approach gets me the enjoyment from practice.”