Cam Newton wears cleats honoring victims of Pittsburgh shooting

PITTSBURGH — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton showed his support for the grieving city of Pittsburgh and his team’s owner by wearing black and gold warm-up cleats with “Hatred Can’t Weaken A City of Steel” on the side before Thursday night’s game against the Steelers.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed his support as well with cleats that said “Stronger Than Hate” and listed the names of the 11 people recently shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue.

Pittsburgh is the hometown of Carolina owner David Tepper, who was a minority owner of the Steelers before he purchased the Panthers earlier this year for $2.275 billion, a record for an NFL team.

While the site of the shooting wasn’t Tepper’s primary synagogue, he lived in the neighborhood near it while in graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Cam Newton, Norv Turner make Panthers serious threat in NFC – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The second-quarter play started with a fake handoff from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to running back Christian McCaffrey up the middle. Newton then gave the ball to rookie wide receiver DJ Moore running from his left to his right. Moore then flipped to second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel going from his right to his left.

It’ll go down in the record book as a 33-yard double-reverse touchdown run by Samuel, even though he covered 103.9 yards according to NextGen stats, zigzagging in and out of Tampa Bay defenders to the end zone.

It’ll go into the minds of future opponents as an example of just how dangerous this offense can be in the hands of Norv Turner and a group of young, dynamic toys who are developing into a scoring machine.

A week after scoring 36 points against the Baltimore Ravens and the league’s No. 1 defense, the Panthers put up a team-record 35 first-half points in Sunday’s 42-28 victory against Tampa Bay.

Granted, the Bucs came into the game ranked last in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 33.2 points a game.

But what the Panthers (6-2) have done the past two games (and in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia when Newton engineered three touchdown drives in a 21-17 victory) has them trending toward one of the most prolific offenses in the league.

Turner deserves credit.

He has transformed Newton into an efficient passer, which makes his title as the best dual-threat quarterback in the league even more meaningful. The 2015 NFL MVP now has a personal-best seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes.

Turner also has shown how well he’s adapted to the times, going from the power-running game he had with Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s to the ball-control game he had with LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers to the dynamic play-caller with Newton & Co.

He’s shed any image of being conservative.

“That’s part of the problem,” coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week. “People look at those things [from Turner’s past] and say he’s a vertical attack guy all the time. Not necessarily.”

What Turner does is utilize his talent to create mismatches.

“You do look at the way he attacks people,” Rivera said. “He is looking for matchups.”

It’s taken a while for Turner’s offensive genius to show at Carolina. Remember, this is the same team that fell behind 17-0 in a loss at Washington and 17-0 at Philadelphia before the rally that might have turned this season around.

This also is a different offense now.

Samuel missed the first three games after having a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen didn’t play from the first quarter of the opener until the fifth game against Washington because of a fractured foot.

And Moore didn’t get fully implemented into the game plan until starter Torrey Smith suffered a knee injury late against the Eagles.

So Turner is just getting his full complement of weapons with a couple of games together.

That might have been lost a bit as the Panthers became conservative and lethargic in the second half. Tampa Bay capitalized to cut the lead to 35-28 before Turner went back to calling what was working in the first half.

That led to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Samuel as the Bucs were focused on all the motion underneath.

Couple Turner’s imagination with Newton’s ability to execute and a defense that — despite a second-half lull — is beginning to jell, and the Panthers have to be considered with the Los Angeles Rams (8-0) and New Orleans Saints (6-1) as the biggest threats to win the NFC.

Turner deserves much of the credit.

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Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, jersey swap Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson wants his first jersey exchange to be with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after Sunday’s game.

“I need his jersey after the game. Get that to him,” Jackson said. “I’ll man cave it.”

Jackson and Newton have never met, although Newton was on the Auburn sideline as a fan and saw Jackson’s first collegiate game with Louisville in September 2015.

Jackson has long been a fan of Newton. The No. 32 overall pick this year, Jackson drew comparisons with Newton heading into the draft.

“He’s got a little bit more life in his legs than I do, a little bit more wiggle,” Newton said. “I’ll be trying to take some notes out of his book. … Not just him, a lot of other quarterbacks in this league.

“Very, very, very exceptional talent, Lamar is. I’ve been watching him for a long time.”

Jackson smiled when told of the comments from a fellow Heisman Trophy winner.

“That’s my Heisman brother,” Jackson said. “So that’s pretty cool that Cam was talking so highly of me.”

Jackson, who is backing up Joe Flacco this season, will likely see the field Sunday in specialty packages. Jackson has run for 103 yards on 20 carries and completed 2 of 6 passes for 29 yards.

Jackson scored his first career NFL touchdown during last weekend’s 24-23 loss to New Orleans. He put the ball in his man cave, and he hopes to add to his NFL memorabilia if Newton is willing.

“As he keeps growing in this league, I know his confidence will rise,” Newton said. “And hopefully one day, he’ll have the reins to be a starter.”

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Eric Weddle calls Cam Newton of Carolina Panthers ‘fast dinosaur’

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is often referred to as “Superman” because of his touchdown celebrations. The Baltimore Ravens described him in more prehistoric terms heading into Sunday’s game.

“He’s a fast dinosaur, muscular and big and runs people over,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said Wednesday. “He’s a very unique quarterback in this league. He’s the only one really like him.”

What kind of dinosaur?

“What’s the one with the horns and charges?” Weddle asked.

A reporter said triceratops.

“Yes, that one just bowls people over,” Weddle said.

Newton is the only quarterback in NFL history to record six seasons of at least 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He joined Michael Vick as the only quarterbacks to run for at least 700 yards in three NFL seasons.

This isn’t the first time that Newton has been called a dinosaur. Trooper Taylor, a former assistant at Auburn, used to call him that.

“I always asked him, ‘Why do you call me a dinosaur?'” Newton said. “He said, ‘Your talent is extinct. They don’t make them like you no more.’ I always laughed, but if you look around this league, and I’ve tried to warn a lot of people prior, too, but it’s not cocky, it’s not confidence, it’s just self-belief in yourself, knowing that the talents that you possess, a lot of people can’t say that they have.”

The main topic of conversation among Ravens defenders was going against Newton and the challenge of getting a 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback to the ground.

The Ravens have allowed six runs of 10 yards or more to quarterbacks this season. Baltimore has given up the 13th-most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season.

“Superman … how often do you get to play against a superhero?” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has a half-sack in his only game against Newton. “His nickname speaks for itself. He’s definitely going to be difficult to bring down. Hopefully, neither one of us will have to do it by ourselves.”

Newton currently ranks 14th in passer rating (94.7) and leads all quarterbacks with 257 yards rushing.

Ravens safety Tony Jefferson has faced Newton three times while with the Arizona Cardinals, including twice in the postseason. Newton won all three games, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two.

“I’ve gotten to see the best of him,” Jefferson said. “It’s never really easy going against a quarterback like that who can make all the throws.”

ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton contributed to this article.

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Damontae Kazee of Atlanta Falcons fined for hit to helmet of Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

ATLANTA — Falcons safety Damontae Kazee, who was ejected for unnecessary roughness last Sunday after a helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, was fined $10,026 by the NFL, a source told ESPN on Friday.

Kazee plans to appeal the fine, the source said.

The league did not take any futher discipline against Kazee, who is set to return to the lineup for this week’s NFC South showdown with New Orleans.

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Falcons’ Damontae Kazee ejected for hit on Cam Newton

ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee was ejected for unnecessary roughness at 12:14 of the second quarter after a helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

As Newton slid to the ground, Kazee dove low and made helmet contact with Newton, causing Newton to go to the sideline momentarily to be checked by the medical staff. Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith then went after Kazee, but Smith was not ejected. Smith did receive an unnecessary roughness penalty to offset Kazee’s.

Kazee was in the starting lineup Sunday after the Falcons lost starting strong safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending ACL tear. Kazee actually started at free safety, with starting free safety Ricardo Allen moving over to strong safety.

Jordan Richards entered the game after Kazee got ejected.

Kazee was flagged for two helmet infractions during the preseason.

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Cam Newton gets black eye in Carolina Panthers preseason win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t ready to curtail his running, even if it gives him a black eye like it did on the seventh play of Friday night’s preseason victory over the New England Patriots.

Newton landed on his helmet so hard after going up and over a defender at the end of a third-and-9 scramble that his helmet slid down over his left eye and left him with a shiner.

He also was evaluated for a concussion but returned four plays later after being cleared.

“It wasn’t no swelling by that time on the field,” Newton said. “I just kept telling them, ‘My eye hurts, my eye hurts.’ It was as if someone poked me in the eye. The helmet just came down. It didn’t feel good.”

Newton said the last time he had a black eye was in middle school.

“You should have seen the other person, what they had,” he said with a smile. “I’m just teasing.”

But the 2015 NFL MVP wasn’t teasing when he said the eye still hurt almost three hours later.

“I feel it growing, too,” he said. “It’s like the pressure of my eye. I’m the unincorporated assigned coach for swag on the Carolina Panthers. I’m still looking to find persons to send these invoices to, because I feel I’m responsible for a lot of people upping their swag, which leads into better game play.

“That’s a different story. I’m not used to seeing myself feel like this. It’s getting to me. What to do? I’m just going to find a lot of ice on this off day and soak in it.”

Coach Ron Rivera would prefer his quarterback not go airborne, particularly in a preseason game, but he knows that’s part of Newton’s DNA.

“I always worry about him,” Rivera said of Newton, who has rushed for more yards (4,320) than any quarterback in the NFL since 2011. “That’s him. He plays to win.

“I’d much rather he didn’t [take chances]. But again, he’s going to give his all.”

Newton said a lot of things went through his mind as he approached the defender.

“Most importantly I was thinking to myself, ‘It’s preseason. It’s preseason. What do I do?”’ he said. “And I’m like, ‘I want to get a first down, but I want to bring this plane down as smoooooothly as possible.’ I’m thinking all that, my man went low and I tried to avoid the hit and just helicoptered out of there … or whatever, and the helmet came down on my eye.

“So I’m not feeling the best right now.”

Asked to describe the landing, Newton smiled again and said, “It could have been better. It could have been better. There was a lot of malfunctions going on from the cockpit. Buttons were getting stuck. Oh my goodness. It was bad. It was real bad.”

Newton has spent the preseason adapting to new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme based on more high-percentage passes. Turner’s goal is to get his quarterback, who has a 58.5 career completion percentage, into the 65 to 70 percent range.

Newton completed 11 of 17 passes for 142 yards against New England and finished his preseason 26-of-38 (68.4 percent) passing for 315 yards and one touchdown. He is not expected to play in next week’s preseason finale at Pittsburgh, and the way he felt after Friday’s game he wouldn’t want to.

Turner wants to see Newton get the ball into the hands of his playmakers more instead of taking chances on designed runs, although he won’t take designed quarterback runs out of the offense.

Newton also won’t hesitate to scramble for every yard he can get if it helps the team win.

“I only know how to play this game one way,” Newton said. “A lot of times it becomes my curse. In more ways it’s my gift.”

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Cam Newton connects with his WRs, but not Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton didn’t have any luck prior to Thursday night’s preseason opener at Buffalo in getting an explanation from former teammate Kelvin Benjamin on why the wide receiver publicly criticized Newton’s accuracy.

But the Carolina Panthers quarterback was successful in quieting — at least for two series — skeptics of his accuracy.

In case you missed it, Benjamin told “The Athletic” last weekend that Newton’s inaccuracy as a passer held him back during his first three and a half NFL seasons before the Panthers traded him to Buffalo midway through last season. Benjamin said he would have been better off had he never been drafted by Carolina.

Newton sought answers from the player he once affectionately called “Benji” about an hour before kickoff. When he didn’t get any, the 2015 NFL MVP appeared to wave off Benjamin with his right hand and walked away.

He wasn’t smiling.

But Newton was smiling after two series. He completed 6 of 9 attempts — a solid 66.6 percent if you’re keeping score — for 84 yards and a 96.5 passer rating in his first test in the system being implemented by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

He could have been better, too, had he not thrown high on two passes to Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen.

Coach Ron Rivera blamed that on Newton being a little excited.

Otherwise, Newton got the ball into the hands of his playmakers with short, high-percentage passes that Turner hopes will help the quarterback increase from a 58.5 career completion percentage into the 65 to 70 range.

He should get better the more he gets into Turner’s system.

Where things with Benjamin stand might take longer to unravel. Newton declined to talk to reporters after the game.

Benjamin repeatedly said he was “moving on,” but didn’t elaborate.

“I wasn’t even trying to listen,” Benjamin said.

The Carolina quarterbacks apparently have been listening to Turner. It also was a successful night for backups Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke as the Panthers move on from veteran Derek Anderson, Newton’s backup since 2011.

Gilbert completed 7 of 12 attempts for 93 yards and a touchdown for a 110.8 rating. Heinicke was 7 of 9 for 121 yards and a rating of 155.8.

Nothing gaudy, mind you.

But a solid night for all three, particularly Newton as he transitions to a system the Panthers hope will end his downward spiral since his MVP season.

“We missed a couple of throws early. I think Cam was jacked up. He threw a couple of high balls,” Rivera said of two high passes to the 6-foot-5 Olsen, Newton’s favorite target three of the past four seasons. “The second series is what we were looking for. It was a good mixture of run and pass.”

Rivera said last week that he liked what he was seeing from his quarterbacks, even the backups who were throwing interceptions at a high rate in practice. He said they were making smart decisions and grasping Turner’s system.

They showed it against the Bills, although each got off to a slow start.

“Once they settled in you saw better pinpoint passing,” Rivera said.

General manager Marty Hurney spent the offseason acquiring talent in free agency and the draft to surround Newton, second-year players Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, and the rest of the offense. The new additions also stood out Thursday.

First-round pick D.J. Moore, a wide receiver out of Maryland, had four catches for 75 yards. Free-agent acquisition Jarius Wright had a 28-yard catch that set up Carolina’s first touchdown.

Both showed their strength with yards after the catch, which was missing from the offense a year ago.

Samuel, last year’s second-round pick, had four catches for 43 yards. McCaffrey rushed four times for 11 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 29 yards, showing he might indeed be ready for the 25 to 30 touches a game that Turner says is realistic.

Potentially, this is the best group of receivers Newton has had as a pro.

But most eyes were on Newton, because how well he adjusts will determine in large part how far the Panthers go in 2018.

He looked relaxed. Comfortable. Calm.

He got rid of the ball quickly, a good sign for a player with a history of holding on too long.

He was fortunate his second attempt to Olsen wasn’t intercepted, but he was facing a good defense and his miscues can be corrected.

Benjamin was right when he brought up Newton’s career inaccuracy even though he was wrong to publicly throw what once was a good friend under the bus.

Newton appears determined to prove Benjamin and his critics wrong and show he can be an efficient passer.

In his only interview during training camp, Newton, who goes by the nickname “Ace Boogie,” said Turner’s offense was “Boogie approved.”

Turner likes what Newton has done so far. He said Newton can be the toughest player in the NFL to defend because of what he can do with his legs and his right arm, but ultimately he wants more out of the arm.

Newton calls Turner’s system refreshing.

Having a player like McCaffrey in the backfield as the every-down back will be refreshing to Newton. The eighth pick of the 2017 draft took two short passes and turned them into 29 yards, a prime example of taking what the defense gives you.

In the past, Newton often tried to take what’s not always there.

“The one thing he’s done consistently is make good decisions all through training camp,” Rivera said of Newton.

Confronting Benjamin to clear the air before the game was another good decision, as was walking away and taking the high road when Benjamin wouldn’t cooperate.

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Kelvin Benjamin was wrong to throw Cam Newton under the bus – Carolina Panthers Blog

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is right. He would have benefited from having Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback during his first three and a half NFL seasons instead of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

You can throw Tom Brady into the mix, as well.

Any wide receiver would benefit from beginning his career with future Hall of Famers, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and, in the case of Rodgers and Manning (since Benjamin brought them up) — Super Bowl MVPs.

Benjamin, traded to Buffalo midway through last season, also would have benefited from their accuracy.

To be fair, though, Manning’s career completion percentage of 59.8 isn’t much better than Newton’s 58.5. And Manning’s completion percentage in his first 10 seasons, when he won two Super Bowl MVPs, was 57.8.

However, Benjamin was wrong in his interview with The Athletic to throw Newton and the Panthers under the bus for his production and not being allowed to grieve after his mother’s death just before last year’s training camp.

In case you missed it, Benjamin, who will face his former team in Thursday night’s preseason opener in Buffalo (7 p.m. ET), said: “It was a bad fit from the get-go. If you would’ve put me with any other quarterback, let’s be real, you know what I’m saying? Any other accurate quarterback like Rodgers or Eli Manning or Big Ben — anybody! — quarterbacks with knowledge, that know how to place a ball and give you a better chance to catch the ball. It just felt like I wasn’t in that position.”

Later, Benjamin tweeted: “I’m just crazy then !!! I was the one who buried my mom and skip the grievance process to get back and help that team …. let’s be real it was all fake … and to be honest i was salty Who wouldn’t be …. I just ben holding it all in. And now I’m free. Hate me or love me.”

Let’s start with the grieving process. Benjamin obviously was hurting last year when he arrived at Wofford College for camp. He wrote on social media he was in a “dark place.”

Benjamin also wrote it was a blessing to be at camp with his teammates and the coaches as he dealt with his mother’s death.

“Been around my bros! It crazy how I feed off [their] Energy. Love mom keep watching over me,” Benjamin tweeted.

The Panthers went out of their way to protect Benjamin from having to do interviews until the week before the opener, when the former Florida State star said he was dedicating the 2017 season to his mother. The staff insisted Benjamin needed time to grieve and gave it to him.

Newton was supportive as well.

“He’s playing with a purpose, and that’s all you can ask,” Newton said at the time. “I think we are going to get the best Benji. I feel this is going to be his best year.”

Now for Benjamin’s on-the-field performance. The most glaring stat is the Panthers were 21-3 without Benjamin the past four seasons. They were 18-21-1 with him.

They were 15-1 in 2015 when Benjamin missed the season with a torn ACL suffered in training camp.

Benjamin also had issues with drops. His 11 during his rookie season tied for the second most in the NFL in 2014. His drop rate of 13.1 was the third-highest percentage that year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Now Benjamin had a superb rookie season. His 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns earned him the second-best rookie rating behind Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants.

But Benjamin’s catch ratio of 50.3 in 2014 was mediocre at best.

That didn’t stop Newton from throwing to his 6-foot-5 receiver, who often made spectacular catches. In the three seasons Benjamin was active, he was targeted 164 more times than any other Carolina receiver, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Benjamin also had gained weight at times, an issue that coach Ron Rivera brought up numerous times over the past three years. The receiver made excuses, saying he didn’t have to be at a certain offseason weight for voluntary workouts even though players understood the sessions were mandatory, as far as Rivera was concerned.

There also were times in games when Benjamin was lazy in using his size to create separation on routes. Twice in a 2016 game against the Chargers, Benjamin made no real effort to chase down a defender after an interception of a pass that was intended for him.

Benjamin later admitted he learned, “Just make sure you finish.”

Newton never threw Benjamin under the bus for any of this.

Nobody defended Benjamin more the past four years than Newton. It was obvious by his body language and words after the trade to Buffalo halfway through last season that Newton was at the very least emotional about the decision made to put more speed onto the field.

“An unbelievable teammate,” Newton said at the time. “He comes to work each and every day. He may not be a talkative person all the time, but I guarantee when you want people in the foxhole, Kelvin Benjamin is a person you want.”

Newton stood up for Benjamin again after a 22-10 loss to Minnesota during the 2016 season in which Benjamin went without a catch.

“That can’t happen,” he said. “He’s too good of a player.”

Newton took the same approach after Benjamin blasted him, posting a story on an Instagram on Saturday night where he said, “Hey, I ain’t going to go back and forth with him. I’m just going to work.”

That caption read, “ALL LOVE ON THIS SIDE.”

But early during Sunday’s practice, Newton made an on-the-field comment that could have been directed at Benjamin.

“Think I’m a liability? I think I’m an asset,” he said.



Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he doesn’t want to address Kelvin Benjamin’s comments because he is no longer with the team.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen agreed. In defending his quarterback against what Benjamin said, he called Newton the best thing to happen to his career. He couldn’t give one example of how Newton would have been a detriment to Benjamin’s career.

“He was the MVP, wasn’t he?” Olsen said of Newton. “Just in general, you play with an MVP quarterback. There’s like four or five of them in the league, right? Obviously, you know how I feel and how we feel about Cam, which I think right now is all that matters. … People have opinions. That’s just the world of today.”

Olsen called it “weird” that Benjamin lashed out at Newton. Many teammates felt the same way.

Newton and Benjamin appeared to be best buds. Benjamin dressed up as an elf in 2014 to help “Santa Cam” deliver gifts to kids in Charlotte. They always were laughing and joking with each other in the locker room and on the field.

Newton affectionately referred to his big receiver as “Benji.”

But Benjamin wasn’t joking in his interview with The Athletic. One could argue he also threw Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane under the bus when he said, “I should’ve never went to Carolina. Truly, I just think Carolina was bad for me.”

Beane was the assistant general manager under Dave Gettleman when the Panthers used the 28th overall pick on Benjamin in 2014. He obviously felt Carolina was the right place for Benjamin.

Perhaps Benjamin just felt during this interview that he needed attention. Ironically, the most attention he ever got was as a rookie, and that was because the iconic Newton was his quarterback, who arguably was the best thing for his career.

Yes, Benjamin might have benefited from playing with another quarterback.

But to throw Newton under the bus now is wrong.

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Greg Olsen of Carolina Panthers defends Cam Newton — ‘People have opinions’

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen on Sunday defended quarterback Cam Newton regarding verbal attacks from former teammate Kelvin Benjamin, saying the 2015 NFL MVP has been the best thing to happen to his career.

Benjamin, who was traded to Buffalo midway through last season, told “The Athletic” that he would have been better off the first three and a half year of his career had he been with a quarterback with better accuracy and “knowledge” of the game than Newton.

Olsen had no idea what sparked the 6-foot-5 wide receiver to make those remarks.

“It’s kind of weird,” Olsen said. “We all wish Kelvin the best. Obviously, things change. Again, we’ve talked at length about how guys around here feel about Cam. Obviously, you don’t like people going after your quarterback.

“But Cam knows how the guys feel here about him. I would imagine that’s what he holds the most credence to.”

Olsen is at the top of Newton’s fan club even though the three-time Pro Bowl selection has been criticized by others for a career completion percentage of 58.5 and the Panthers hired Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator to in part improve Newton’s percentage.

Olsen recalled that he became a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with Newton.

He can’t imagine that Newton hurt Benjamin’s growth or career as the wide receiver indicated.

“He was the MVP, wasn’t he?” Olsen reminded of Newton’s 2015 season in which he threw a career-high 35 touchdown passes with Benjamin sidelined with a torn ACL suffered in training camp. “Just in general, you play with an MVP quarterback. There’s like four or five of them in the league right?

“Obviously, you know how I feel and how we feel about Cam, which I think right now is all that matters. … People have opinions. That’s just the world of today.”

The Panthers actually were better without Benjamin, going 21-3 the past four years when the former Florida State star wasn’t on the field, 18-21-1 with him.

Newton did not talk to reporters after a Sunday afternoon practice despite numerous requests for him. But early in the two-hour session at Wofford College, at the beginning of a passing drill, he seemed to take a shot at Benjamin although he didn’t mention the receiver’s name.

“Think I’m a liability,” Newton said. “I think I’m an asset.”

Newton’s only public comments since Benjamin’s remarks came on Saturday night in an Instagram story.

“Hey, I ain’t going to go back and forth with him. I’m just going to work. You feel me? That’s all it is, you know what it is. Just work, baby,” Newton said in the video while walking on a treadmill.

Coincidence or not, Newton seemingly threw more than normal to Jarius Wright, who wears the No. 13 Benjamin wore at Carolina from the time he was selected with the 28th pick of the 2014 draft.

Newton left the field after practice in a golf cart flashing a big smile as he drove past screaming fans wanting an autograph.

Asked how Newton handled Benjamin’s comments, Olsen smiled and said, “He was fine today. He was himself. I don’t think it had much of an impact.”

Coach Ron Rivera declined to talk about Benjamin’s comments or whether Bills coach Sean McDermott, the former defensive coordinator at Carolina, contacted him to apologize.

“I’ll talk about our players and what we have here,” Rivera said. “It’s time to move on.”

McDermott was critical of Benjamin for making the comments when addressing reporters in Buffalo.

“There’s a time and a place — I’m not saying specific to what comments were made — there’s a time and place for things like that,” said McDermott, whose team host the Panthers on Thursday night in the preseason opener for both teams. “This was not one of them. We have a lot of respect for our opponents, No. 1, and everyone in the league.

“I’ve spoken with Kelvin, and that’s not how I want us to handle things like that. So we’ll move forward as a team, and I’m hoping we’ve already done that.”

Benjamin told reporters he was “angry” at the time he made the comments about Newton to “The Athletic.” He also said he didn’t have plans to reach out to Newton.

Olsen agreed with Rivera that is time for Benjamin to move on.

“We enjoyed Kelvin,” he said. “For the most part he was a good person to have around. Things didn’t work out here for him. I get it. I know what that’s like. You’d like to kind of see him move forward to his new team, embrace his new opportunity, rather than go personal on it.”

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