How Super Bowl debacle made Cam Newton better

Night net Sporting News Night net Writer Alex Marvez is touring training camps with SiriusXM Night net Radio. Here is his take from Carolina Panthers camp.SPARTANBURG, S.C. — From his saltiness in news conferences to poor quarterbacking performance, Cam Newton slogged through a Super Bowl 50 experience that he would much rather forget. But in the long run, Newton might be better for losing.MORE: Baltimore tourist captures Newton's kind gesture | Newton: Criticism isn't about race Had the Carolina Panthers beaten Denver, maybe a contented Newton wouldn’t be displaying the same kind of single-minded focus toward winning a championship that is driving him into the 2016 season.While still pursuing his commercial and entertainment endeavors during the offseason — including his own kids show on Nickelodeon — Newton remained committed to taking steps that could very well lead to the Night net’s reigning Most Valuable Player taking his game to a new level.Panthers training camp provides the proof.The comfort level Newton has in operating Mike Shula’s offensive system has reached such heights that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Carolina will change the way it attacks opponents. And if anyone thinks his confidence was shaken by what happened against the Broncos, they haven’t attended Panthers practices where drills between the offense and defense are the most competitive they’ve been since Newton entered the Night net in 2011.The chirping between Newton and some of Carolina’s top defensive players like linebacker Thomas Davis reached such a point that Rivera was forced to tell both sides to chill in the sweltering summertime heat at Wofford College.“He’s being way more vocal,” Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy told co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM Night net Radio. “He’s doing what the Kobe Bryants and Michael Jordans are doing — that’s knowing how to challenge the player. Not challenging to throw them down but bring them up.“I love it.”MORE: Panthers almost drafted Blaine Gabbert over Cam NewtonWhat wasn’t there to love about Newton’s MVP campaign in 2015? He scored 45 touchdowns (35 passing/10 running) while leading a one-loss Panthers team into the Super Bowl.Along the way, Newton and his teammates had a blast at their opponents’ expense. They made the “dab” into a mainstream phenomenon. They handed footballs to kids in the stands after scoring. They took an in-game group sideline photo during a rout of Atlanta. Newton’s “Superman” celebrations were never more apt because he was playing like a Man of Steel.Then came the kryptonite known as the Broncos defense.Whether it was anxiety from playing in his first Super Bowl or simply an off day, Newton was never himself in Super Bowl 50. He also got little support from his offensive line while executing a game plan that didn’t effectively account for Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who would win MVP honors after notching 2.5 sacks and forcing two Newton fumbles. (Getty Images) Cam Newton gets sacked by Von Miller in Super Bowl 50. (Getty)Newton’s decision to walk out of a postgame news conference subjected him to another round of condemnation from fans and media who either didn’t like the lack of sportsmanship or were simply looking for another reason to pile on a QB whose flamboyant style of play, cocky demeanor and — sadly — race have made him a target for criticism.Newton told GQ magazine that he didn’t care about the fallout from the news conference debacle. Losing the game stung so much more that Newton still hadn’t watched the replay months later.“I just hate that we didn’t win,” Newton said. “We had our opportunities. … It just plays back in my mind, knowing that it was plays to be had.”MORE: Panthers carrying Super Bowl-size chip on shoulderRather than mope, Newton dedicated himself to further mastering Carolina’s offense. Newton is at the point where he chooses the play based upon the defensive look he’s getting. This should lead to a faster-paced attack.“That’s where you see him at his best,” Rivera said. “In all honesty, we say he’s playing Madden. He’s seeing what’s going on and then — bam! — he’s clicking buttons and making his calls and adjustments and reads.“When he practices poorly is when we slow the tempo down and get into the huddle. He likes the frenetic energy. To me, that’s where he’s confident. He wants to go. He doesn’t want to slow down. You’ll see a lot of our up-tempo offense I think throughout the year and I think you’ll really get a good chance to get a sense for his development and growth.”Running back Mike Tolbert already has that vibe. Having joined the Panthers in 2012, Tolbert said the timidity and hesitancy Newton once exhibited in trying to operate the offense is long go

ne.“(Shula) just gives him the formation and Cam’s calling the play before coach even puts it out there,” Tolbert said. “It ends up being the same exact play coach wanted.“To see him come out and take control, do things his way and get it done and win games doing it, you can’t do anything but give him thumbs up about it.”As the Panthers prepare for their September 8 rematch at Denver in the regular-season opener, there is still one area where Rivera still thinks Newton could do a better job. That’s not being afraid to call out teammates publically or privately if necessary.“You very rarely hear him point a finger,” Rivera said. “It’s always, ‘I could have made a better read. I could have thrown a better pass.’ His teammates really do appreciate it. He never put anybody out there to dry. He’s always kind of kept it on his shoulders.“But every now and then I think it’s a bad thing because I think he puts too much on himself. Every now and then it’s OK to say, ‘We could have done some things better. We probably could have run better routes or picked up that blitz a little better,’ rather than saying. ‘It’s my fault.’ He’s earned the right to say something specific to a player or group of player just so they know he knows … I think he’s learning that as well.”At age 27, Newton’s education is far from finished as he tries to put the Super Bowl debacle behind him.“He’s growing all the time,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He’s responded really well. He takes ownership every day all day long.“He’s got a natural charisma that you can’t deny. It’s real. People early on would say he’s got a fake smile. It’s crazy. He’s genuine. I know these guys will follow him anywhere.”The next step is seeing whether the journey takes Newton and the Panthers to Houston for Super Bowl 51.— Alex can next be heard from Detroit Lions camp 4-7 pm ET Tuesday on SiriusXM Night net Radio.