STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Cam Newton is defending his role in a scuffle with Carolina Panthers’ teammate Josh Norman that put the star quarterback at risk of unnecessarily getting injured.
Newton said Tuesday he would do it again.
“I have no regrets of things that I’ve done,” Newton said. “It’s been whispered about ‘franchise quarterback doing this or doing that.’ What’s the blueprint of a franchise quarterback? Leading your team. I’m not going to let anyone dictate how I play.”
It’s rare to see a quarterback of Newton’s stature instigating any type of contact, let alone starting a fight, at training camp.
But Newton contends he’s not like most franchise quarterbacks.
“You’ve never seen a guy in a red jersey like me,” Newton said. “You’re not going to shape or form me into who you want me to be. I’m here for” my teammates.
Most quarterbacks around the league, including Newton, wear a red jersey at practice designed to protect them from contact and reduce the risk of injury.
They normally keep a distance from fights.
Newton, however, took matters into his own hands on Monday after Norman stiff-armed him during an interception return. An angry Newton turned and ran down Norman near the goal line after the play had been blown dead by coaches. The two players got into a scrap and wound up at the bottom of a pile of players — Newton without his helmet.
They eventually had to be separated by teammates.
Although linebacker Thomas Davis yelled at the fifth-year quarterback for being “stupid,” a defiant Newton defended his actions during an 11-minute press conference Tuesday.
“Do what (again)? Practice hard? Yes. I practice hard each and every day,” Newton said.
Newton has drawn criticism for putting himself at risk of injury after signing a $103 million contract extension this offseason. General manager Dave Gettleman declared at that time Newton is the guy to lead the Panthers to the “Promised Land.”
Newton contends people worry too much about him getting hurt.
“People are going to have their concerns with me riding on the Segway — ‘Hey, what is he doing? He could stumble over a stick and trip up,'” Newton said. “I can’t live my life like that. It goes back to this: Am I going to let people dictate what I’m supposed to be? Or am I going to dictate to people and say, ‘I am what I am?’ If you like it then that’s great; if you don’t like it, even better.”
Newton said he has spoken to Norman and the rest of the team and there are no hard feelings.
Norman didn’t address the media.
“I’m bringing the best out of Josh, and Josh is bringing the best out of me,” Newton said.
Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen said the entire event has been overblown by the media, claiming critics are always looking for ways to judge Newton.
“He’s (245) pounds and has rushed for more touchdowns than almost any quarterback in NFL history. He’s a big boy. He’s fine,” Olsen said. “I think everyone needs to stop overreacting. … He’s one of the biggest guys on the team and carries the ball 15 times per game like a running back. A little hand-slapping fight with a DB in practice? I think he will be OK.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t want to revisit the incident on Tuesday, but clearly downplayed the fight on Monday.
“The thing I try to take away from it, as you look for the positive in it, is hey, he stood up for himself and the other guy stood up for himself,” Rivera said. “I know it’s the quarterback, but we treat everybody the same. That’s the way I’m going to look at it. That’s my spin on it.”
Practice on Tuesday was noticeably tame with no trash talking on either side of the ball — a dramatic change from the first 10 days of practice when Newton and Norman, among others, exchanged barbs at the other side of the ball.
Rivera acknowledged there was noticeably less chatter.
But the fifth-year head coach said that isn’t because of something he said to the players.
“I didn’t put the kibosh on it,” Rivera said. “There were probably a group of players who probably had something to say to themselves and have realized that you don’t necessarily need it to be successful. Some of it is just understanding how to practice.”
Added Rivera: “It’s not like you have to have (the trash talk) every day — or you have to have it all.”
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