Cam Newton got into a fight with teammate Josh Norman during training camp Monday, this after Norman picked off Newton and stiff-armed him while Newton attempted to make a tackle. The two then began wrestling and ended up on the ground.
Neither player was injured in the scuffle, but the story would have been awfully different had Newton sustained an injury.
“I agree with you,” Charlotte Observer Panthers writer Jonathan Jones said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Obviously if he ruptures an Achilles in this fight, then obviously it’s going to be a lot bigger. But you look around the league. There aren’t a lot of $103-million guys on the ground midway through training camp fighting with a teammate.”
Indeed, Newton makes $20.8 million a year. Norman makes roughly $575,000. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera downplayed the incident, saying it’s normal for tempers to flare in camp, but isn’t that a little naive when the incident involves your star player and the NFL equivalent of a walk-on?
“There’s some politics to it,” Jones said. “I think Ron is saying what Cam wants to get across: ‘I’m a football player. Don’t treat me with kid gloves. I’m one of you.’ That’s kind of what’s going on and that’s what Ron talked about – that Cam doesn’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else and he doesn’t want to treat anyone differently than anyone else. If you kind of pull away from it, of course you don’t want your franchise quarterback doing that. But he is just another guy on your football team to your other 52 guys.”
Had Newton gotten hurt, Scott Ferrall wouldn’t have been surprised if Rivera would have lost his job over the incident.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “I think Josh Norman’s job probably would have been over a little bit before Ron Rivera’s job would have been over, and obviously had he gotten hurt, I think the tone would have certainly changed. But Ron, with the knowledge that nobody was injured or anything like that, he was able to say what he said, and he kind of said it with a bit of a smile.”
Newton has about five inches and 50 pounds on Norman, but that didn’t stop the former fifth-round pick from getting in the face of the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“Well, it’s interesting,” Jones said. “So Cam throws an interception and Josh kind of went to the ground to pick it off. So as he gets up, he’s running toward the end zone. These guys are taught not to give up on a play. No one’s touched you, so get up and run with it. So he gets near the goal line and he’s about 10, 5 yards out, and he’s already been basically tagged down, but he keeps going like these guys usually do and he throws a stiff arm to Cam, and the stiff arm goes right at the face mask. The fingers kind of curl around the face mask. I think Cam took exception to that, so he shoved him and then Norman kind of shoved him back and got him underneath the helmet, the helmet flew off and that’s when they grabbed each other and went to the ground.”
The Panthers are coming off a 7-8-1 season in which they won the NFC South and a Wild Card game before losing to Seattle, 31-17, in the divisional round.
In semi-related Panthers news, former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith said that he will retire after the 2015 season. Smith, 36, spent the first 13 years of his career in Carolina before signing with Baltimore last season.
“Steve’s had an incredible career,” Jones said. “I was fortunate enough to cover him for awhile. It’s a shame for him and his family that he wasn’t able to wrap it up in Charlotte and be there in his final two seasons. But he seems happier in Baltimore and I know that he really, really wants a ring and he understands how important that ring is for him to make it to Canton.”