“I don’t go into each game, you know, trying to top anything because if I go into it like that, I think my man Tom Brady takes the whole prize,” Newton told a group of reporters crowded around his locker at midweek. “What he did a couple days ago, it was nuts. I just go into each game just being coachable and just taking the things that I’ve been practicing all week and find a way to get comfortable.”
Moon said that Newton was able to focus on passing fundamentals during the break between the final preseason game and the regular season opener, and that he benefited from having top wide receiver Steve Smith in the lineup after Smith had been sidelined for half the preseason. But Moon had been a vocal supporter of Newton’s all along, even before the draft, when some analysts were questioning whether Newton’s passing skills were sufficiently refined for the NFL.
“I never would have stuck my neck out there like I did unless I knew what type of player he was and what type of person he was,” Moon, who now runs a sports marketing company, said in a telephone interview. “I got to spend a lot of time with him and I got to know him pretty well. I got to see his work ethic. Everyone has seen the physical gifts. I could tell how hard he was working to be an NFL player. All he could do in college was what he was allowed to do in his offense.”
The Packers’ defense could present Newton with a tougher test than Arizona’s. Still, the defending Super Bowl champs didn’t have an overpowering defensive performance in their opener. They allowed Brees to pass for 419 yards before they stopped the Saints at the 1-yard line on the final play of a 42-34 triumph.
Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said last week that Newton runs the ball effectively but first looks to pass when he moves out of the pocket in response to defensive pressure. McCarthy likened the rookie’s improvisational skills to those of Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Super Bowl winner for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger and the Steelers lost to the Packers in last season’s Super Bowl.
“He’s a tough guy to bring down,” McCarthy said at a midweek news conference. “He’s a big, athletic individual, a lot like Roethlisberger. . . . I think Cam Newton is also an exceptional runner with the football. He’s made people miss.”
Moon calls Newton a “special” player. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to consistent NFL production by Newton.
“I’m tickled he got off to a good start,” Theismann said. “That always makes you feel good for a while. But let’s give it some time.”