There were still questions a few days ago about whether or not Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton had what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
But after yesterday, the conversation has changed after he threw for 422 yards in his pro debut, shattering the rookie record. Unfortunately, the Panthers still lost their season-opener to the Arizona Cardinals. Newton also completed touchdown passes of 77 and 26 yards in the 28-21 defeat that wasn’t close to being his fault.
The No.1 overall draft pick who was anointed as the starter only last week has quickly gained the respect and trust of his coaches and teammates.
"Everybody believes in him," two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross said to reporters in Glendale, Ariz. "We're never looking around wondering who's going to make the play. I know our receivers believe in him as well. He's our quarterback and he's taken that by the reins and led the charge."
There had been concern about whether Newton could create the same kind of magic that made him a one-year wonder at Auburn last season.
Newton completed 24 of 37 passes, which should put a temporary hush to questions about his ability to be an accurate passer. Newton also showed he can keep plays alive with his legs as he did in leading the Tigers to an undefeated BCS national championship season.
"He's just one of those guys when he gets in the game, there's just something about him," tight end Greg Olsen said. "There's some guys that have it, and some don't."
But Newton was wise to caution people not to get too excited. It is a long season and teams will better be able to plan for the rookie quarterback after having seen him play his first complete game.
"There's going to be a lot more things I can look back on ... after I watch the film," Newton said. "One thing I know right now is you have to capitalize. When you're in the red zone you can't take a sack, you can't digress. You have to capitalize and get points when it matters."
(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)