Garret Mann

Cam Newton: The Lion and His Record

Who is the Carolina Panthers best goal line runner? Is it Deangelo Williams? Can’t be, he has less goal line carries than the four other Williams’s in the league, one of which is a wide receiver. The man is too small, he’s a speedy one, could maybe be useful with some goal line tosses off tackle, but why risk the negative yardage? Jonathan Stewart? He’s consistently knocking defenders on their ass game after game; this guy rarely goes down at first contact. Stewart is a wide running back who’s built low to the ground and can pound the ball right up the middle, but no, he is not the Panthers best goal line runner. We basically don’t have a fullback, most of the time if you see someone in that position it’s one of our tight ends, Greg Olsen or Jeremy Shockey. Fans, the Panther’s best goal line runner is their quarterback!

This past weekend, Cam Newton broke Steve Grogan’s record of 12 touchdowns by a quarterback in a season. Cam broke it with a magnificent trail of fire, taking the ball in 3 times for the day, the last one being the record breaker, number 13. With a halfback lead, Cam Newton fell forward past the goal line, he then popped up onto his feet and performed a classic Superman celebration, but then, as if not realizing he just broke the record, or just a selfless act of a true fans’ man, he runs over to the stands and hands the record breaking ball off to 16-year-old Katie Brown. Brown, who was sporting a homemade “Mrs. Newton” shirt, immediately started to sport a giddy teenage girl kind of fit as well. Of course, later on Panthers assistant equipment manager Don Toner was forced to request Katie to return the ball (obviously in exchange for a handful of other souvenirs), as it is destined to hold a spot in Canton forever.

Katie Brown will always remember that day, that moment, the feel of the ball, as Katie became a fan of Newton while he was at Auburn, pledging that whatever team drafts him, that is the team she will root for. Katie can go to Canton many years from now, and look at that ball, remembering Cam running over to her, pointing at her, smiling that huge grin of his, making her the luckiest fan in the NFL that Sunday.

Now the Panthers organization finally let Cam out of his media muzzle this week to do his first national interview as a Carolina Panther, and I have to say, I loved it. The man has more haters than Obama, and he hasn’t been allowed to retaliate or stand up for himself in person, but what was weird is that he still didn’t say anything. For the past three months, his retaliation has been being a spectacular football player, and that is the way he wants to keep it. “Just sit back and watch the show, man. I can’t worry about what they do, I’m the type of person that, you know, a person might say ‘look at that mountain right there, you can’t do it!’ I’m the type of person to say you wait right here, I’m gonna run up this mountain and get to the top and be like ‘Oh, What’d you say?!’”

Don’t get me wrong, I find some things Cam talks about frightening. Newton compared getting used to losing to trying to train a wild safari animal to be a house animal. “The house that I’m in, is somewhat of a tarnished house where losing is accepted! But I’m trying to change that whether I’m gonna have to turn that house into a safari or I’m just gonna have to get out of that house.” That line scares the living s*** out of me. It’s not that I don’t agree with him, I totally agree. I mean he talks about seeing people just saying “Oh we’ll get it right the next play”, but play goes by and play goes by and the game’s over. I can’t stand that. I just hope Jerry Richardson sees eye to eye with me, Cam Newton, and undoubtedly many others in Panther Nation. I think we’ll be fine though, I think as opposed to pulling a LeBron James, Cam pulls an MJ and with a bit of help, creates the team around him, that he sees to it that HIS team has that same mentality about losing. Furthermore, I think that with a supporting cast including the likes of Steve Smith, Jon Beason, Jeremy Shockey, and Jonathan Stewart, along with young promising players on the team now and that are added to the team in the future who have that drive, this team can do big things. They have that extra push that you see on every down that proves to everyone that no one can stop them from making an impact, from moving their team that much closer to the W.

It starts near the top with our young, success driven head coach named Ron Rivera, who shares that “losing is unacceptable” mentality with Cam. Rob Chudzinski is an innovative offensive coordinator that consistently shows that his combination of well thought out schemes with that so-crazy-that-it-might-just-work spark to it, is the right fit for our explosive quarterback that is Cam Newton. Finally we have our Jim Johnson graduate out of Philly, a young defensive coordinator by the name of Sean McDermott who rolls with the punches and just wont lay down, and who I believe, with a fairly healthy defense and time to grasp the system, will establish a once again feared Panther defense.

As long as Jerry Richardson stays smart, and stays on the path he’s on now, and Panther Nation creates a fan base that a winning team can be proud of, I think we’ll be just fine. Being a Panther fan, I truly feel part of a family, I wish so bad to attend our first home game in what feels like forever (I have finals…) this weekend against a Falcons team that whooped us earlier this year on their turf. The only time I am ever certain that a fight will break out in the stands or on the field is when these scoundrels come to town. So this is it Panther Nation, no more “it’s okay he’s a rookie”, “we’re in a rebuilding year”, “new coach”, “at least we get a high draft pick”; no more excuses. I don’t want to hear those gah damn analysts on the TV, I want to hear you, Panther Nation! Get behind your team, make me proud, make your team proud, and make every single Panther in a uniform, whether it’s some scrub or Cam Newton, never ever want to take off that uniform! It’s time for the December stretch ladies and gents, it’s time for this Panthers team to show what a one year out of 2-14 team can do with SuperCam, the new King of the Queen City at it’s helm!

Yes We Cam!

Cam Newton’s New Gatorade Endorsement?

Last week I wrote about which Carolina Panther I would love to have 26 of (to start every position including Punter, Kicker, Returner, and yes, even Long-snapper).  That was Steve Smith.  This week I give you a young Panther of whom I am fine with one of.  Not because I do not like him, but because he is the kind of player I want to lead, I want other players to look to him and think that they need to want to win as much as he does.  People, I am talking about the Panthers Quarterback of the future, Mr. Cameron Jerrell Newton (here come the ney-sayers).

In the past two weeks or so, the media has been evaluating and over-evaluating a truly weak subject.  In a poor and pathetic attempt to trash their “Scam” Newton, they’ve pin-pointed his so called sulky attitude after games and drives.  Now I’m not complaining so much, because at the end of the day, they also gave me something to write about.

Cam Newton’s post game demeanor could be described as sulky, pouty, gloomy, etc.  and I could see that.  The guy hates to lose.  When he wins, it looks as though the sun is shining in that conference room.  I can’t blame him because I am the same way.  If I win, I will talk s*** like no other, but if I lose, I will not speak.  Simple and plain.  That’s how I want my Quarterback to carry himself.  I would much rather a guy like that standing up there than some dude that’s gonna half ass a football game and go up there and say we’ll get’em next time, and then go and do nothing and lose next week.  Cam is up there saying that we flat out sucked, but that we’re gonna go and figure this out for next week.  Yes, there have been times I have been disappointed with what Cam has said at the podium, but that is not my place.  He has said some things I like though:

September 11, 2011, at Arizona, when asked about losing.                                                    “It’s not comfortable for me, I’m not gonna sit up here and huff and puff, and tell y’all this and that, but it doesn’t feel good, there was one point where we got too lax, we gotta learn from this game and can’t linger on the bad things, we did a lot of good things.

September 18, 2011, Green Bay, when asked about having been competitive in this game.  “I don’t like that word, ‘competing’, we don’t go into each game to compete, we go to win.”

As anyone can see by watching a Panthers game, Cam Newton does everything he can to help us win.  Why do you think he has set all these records and exceeded everyone’s expectations?  He has had to, in order to give the Panthers a chance, he’s had to.  I just hope that the Panthers organization looks to the future and realizes they need to help Cam out in order for him to help Charlotte get its first Championship.  That being said, Cam Newton should sign an endorsement with Gatorade.

To see some Cam Newton post-game interview.  Click here. 

Steve Smith: Local Thug or Emotional Leader?

Stevonne Latrall Smith, better known as Steve Smith, #89 for the Carolina Panthers since getting picked in the third round (74th overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft.  Steve “Smitty” Smith is a feisty man.  Known for snapping on various occasions in various emotional situations just as much as he’s known for his quickness.

Here’s a brief history:

Smith was drafted for the special teams out of the University of Utah, and he delivered.  Earning a spot on the Pro Bowl roster his rookie year for leading all rookies in net yardage with 1,994 yards, and landing in fourth place among all NFL players.  On November 10, 2002, Smith was awarded brief jail time on charges of misdemeanor assault for getting into a scuffle with teammate Anthony Bright during a film-room meeting.  The brawl ended with a shiny broken nose for Bright and two nights in the hospital.

A year later though, Smith was leading his team through the playoffs— catching a game winning 69-yard pass in the 2nd overtime in the Divisional Playoff game against the St. Louis Rams—to Super Bowl XXXVIII.

In 2005 Steve Smith had the greatest year of his career after being out for 15 of the 16 games the previous year for an injury.  Smith earned the “Triple Crown” of receiving, leading the league with 1,563 receiving yards, 108 receptions, and 12 touchdowns.  Steve Smith also won a touchdown celebration competition with Chad Ochocinco, and earning his first ESPN commercial.  Smith did a phenomenal job in the playoffs that season with 27 receptions, for 335 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  Smith was voted Comeback Player of the Year and was voted to the Pro Bowl this season and the next.

On August 1, 2008 Smith and then Carolina Panther cornerback Ken Lucas got into a scuffle in training camp.   Steve Smith was suspended by the team for the first two games of the season.  Though he then came back, led the NFL in yards per game, and was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl.

Let’s fast forward exactly three years later:

August 1, 2011, headline reads “Steve Smith to Stay with Panthers”.  Months before that, Smith had reportedly done everything but actually get traded and move.  Smith’s home in Charlotte was on sale, he had cleared his locker and family suite before the lockout, oh, and he had told Jerry Richardson that he wanted out.  ESPN’s Adam Schefter had spoken with Smith the morning of August 1, 2011, and Steve Smith told him that he would stay with the Carolina Panthers.

“I’m going to be here and I’m ready to show people a side of me that they haven’t seen,” Smith said.  “I’m staying in Carolina.”

Panthers fans let out a sigh of relief, stepped back from the ledge, turned off the panic switch.  In other words, Steve Smith leaving the Carolina Panthers would have been the worst thing to have happened at that specific time, and as a Panthers fan I would just like to take a brief moment to thank him.

Now fast-forward about three months:

Steve Smith is among the most productive wide outs in the NFL with 51 receptions, 951 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns.  With some much needed help of fellow receivers making noise and having a quarterback that can keep up with him in Cam Newton, Smith is on his way to another Pro Bowl season.  Just like he has always been though, he is as fiery as ever.  I have already witnessed multiple scuffles at Bank of America Stadium involving Smith.

Steve Smith has many tattoos, one on his right arm of the Superman logo.  Now while teammate Cam Newton has his Superman celebration, Steve Smith is definitely super human. After this season’s game against the Chicago Bears, one Bear was quoted after the game saying “We were hitting Steve Smith so hard.  But he would just get up and just yell at us.  It was weird, man.”   Now if I could choose one quote to describe Smith, that would be it, also if you just think about what he is saying, it’s just hilarious.

This past Sunday, in the embarrassing performance by the Panthers in their horrendous loss to the Tennessee Titans, Steve Smith drew a penalty late in the fourth quarter that rooted straight from frustration.  Frankly, it was overdue.  Yes, it was a rough play, Smith basically tackled instead of blocked Tennessee’s defensive back Alterraun Verner, and Verner’s helmet rolled.  My colleague (jokes) Scott Fowler, a Charlotte Observer Sports Columnist caught up with Steve Smith after the game.  Here is their exchange:

Fowler: Steve, what happened at the end of the game?

Smith: You saw it. You’re going to write about it. You write, Scott.

Fowler: I don’t know what the …

Smith: I don’t really care, Scott. That’s how I feel right now. I feel like crap. I’m not going to sit here and explain, I’m not going to apologize. This is me.

If people don’t like it, people are going to write what they want to write, but I live with it. I’ll get over it. I’ll move on. You can harp on it, you can talk about it, you can report it. You can Google it, blog it, however you want to do it.

In a football game, emotions get high. I know I’m not the first one to ever get a penalty; won’t be the last time the local thug gets a penalty. But at the end of the day, I was on a Super Bowl team, I’m going to play, I’m going to make mistakes, so write what you want. Don’t really care, Scott.

You finished? You want any more questions? Because I really don’t care.

Fowler: That’s good for me.

Smith: It was great. So write your article, and keep it moving.

Personally, I really don’t think any of this was a big deal.  Scott was doing what journalists do, and Steve was responding the way athletes do and should.

Over the years I have seen a lot from this man.  He’s been ejected from a game for touching a referee, throwing up on the sideline between drives, fights, trash talking, jumping up and making every little fight and catching a ball that a 5-9 man has no business catching.   I don’t think the Charlotte media gives Steve Smith the credit, praise, or respect he deserves.  I’ve noticed that I don’t see too many interviews with the man, too many quotes, and that is his style, and maybe because he doesn’t like to talk to the media so much, but is so colorful with everyone else, they aren’t too fond of him.  This guy looses his head at many times, but if I could pick one specific person for all of the Panthers Organization to follow, and for him to lead by example, it would be Steve Smith.  He never plays without heart.  His fight, his effort, and emotion truly do define him, and he has helped define an organization for 10 years now, an organization that was once feared for exactly that kind of emotion, and I believe will be again soon.

Now here are two Bojangles commercials starring none other than Steve Smith:

This one’s with Jake Delhomme!

This one’s my greatest fantasy.

Staal vs Staal:  Hurricane Destroys Pittsburgh

As some of you may know, I grew up below the Mason-Dixon line, in the great state of North Carolina.  North Carolinians are passionate about sweet tea, Cheerwine, biscuits, the great outdoors, our college basketball, our Carolina Panther football, and most recently, our hockey.  The state capitol, Raleigh, NC, plays home to the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team.  In recent years there has been great speculation on hockey in the south.  Hockey has always been a Yankee thing, and to add to that, Atlanta just lost their team to Canada.  That was a low point. That was the line that was crossed.  To me, that is when I as a proud southerner say “F*** You Canada, I like hockey too!”

So maybe it wasn’t my country rage that led me to attend Saturday nights hockey game at the RBC Center to see the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Carolina Hurricanes.  A former squeeze of mine had invited me to go with her.  So sue me if I didn’t pay complete attention to the entire game, I tried as hard as I could to catch every speck of detail so that you, the reader, could re-experience your first thrill of an NHL game as I explain mine.

The drive to Raleigh from Elon, NC was long, but hot with anticipation and good conversation as we cruised down I-85 through the Research Triangle.  As we pulled onto the exit ramp and I turned the wheel until the RBC Lion was in view, I was taken back to the Charlotte Coliseum days when the Charlotte Hornets were all the buzz in the area.  The Hornets were once the pride of the Carolinas. After many years of great college basketball, we were on the professional stage, and we embraced it like no other, only to have it stripped from us at such a young age, like if a parent were to abruptly switch their child from diapers to briefs, and shit hit the fan.  You see, both the RBC Center and the former Charlotte Coliseum are open area ones, as opposed to urban coliseums like Time-Warner Cable Arena in Uptown Charlotte.  The parking lot is the entire area surrounding the RBC Center.  So basically no matter where you park, it costs $10.  As we parked and walked, I realized that this was also the home of NC State Wolfpack basketball, my former squeeze that accompanied me to the game (we’ll refer to her as “Woman”), who is a Wolfpack fan (booo) told me that they just lay the hardwood on the ice for the basketball games.  “I wonder if their feet get cold…” said Woman.

Our seats were hardly spectacular, looking straight I was watching the goalie, and as opposed to telling you how many rows up we were, I’ll tell you that we were about 6 rows from the top.  I was very impressed though, because with my horrendous eye-sight I could still follow the puck very well, which prior to the game was a very real issue in my head.  After player introductions, in which Goalie Cam Ward, and Forwards Jeff Skinner, and Eric Staal were the most cheered, there was the face off, and the game was on.

One minute and twenty seconds had passed by, and….. GOAL!!!

The boy wonder Jeff Skinner backhanded the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury for my first ever in-person witnessed goal.  And the crowd goes wild! These country boys, hicks, white-trash women, country girls, and occasional Yankee that’s moved down to North Carolina for the cheaper real estate sure love their Canes!  During player introductions, Woman had commented on how young Jeff Skinner looked, I then consulted my smart phone to find that this kid was born in 1992, he’s 19.  I’ve never failed to be shocked at these young athletes.  How much they’re making, how talented they are, everything and it was no different here.

I had said to Woman that I would be thoroughly disappointed if I didn’t see a fight tonight. Seconds later, boom, punch landed.  I wonder how popular the NHL would be if it weren’t for fights.  The rest of the first period was a cluster of sluggish play from every Hurricane besides Cam Ward.  The Canes couldn’t keep the puck off of their side of the ice, but Cam just kept on knocking it away from the goal.  Watch out Cam Newton.  The whole three period thing really throws you off the first time you experience it. It really is like they have two half-times. Thanks Canada.

The second period was a Ruutu and Skinner party, Jeff Skinner hooking up Tuomo Ruutu for two goals to make it a 3-0 Hurricane storm for Pittsburgh.  The crowd couldn’t have been more into it.  I very much frequent Carolina Panthers games, and while the crowd has most recently become heard due to NFL rookie sensation Cam Newton aka Black Jesus, they have seldom been anything comparable to the Raleigh crowd at the RBC Center.  Prior to this game I was saying to myself that the Hurricanes should be based in Charlotte instead of Raleigh, because Charlotte is better than Raleigh, which is a fact that still holds true.  Kudos to you though Raleigh, your fan base for the Hurricanes is one to be reckoned with. I approve.

In the first thirteen minutes of the 3rd Period, the Penguins scored 3 goals.  Two of them by the apparently hated Jordan Staal, brother of Canes Star Eric Staal.  Every single mention of Jordan was booed with immense loathing, but hey I couldn’t blame them, I was booing too, but boy was I liking the prospect of Sudden Death, the best overtime in all of sports exists here, in the NHL.  Unfortunately though, with 5 minutes to go, the hero Eric Staal, saves the almost Hurricane disaster with a goal of his own to take back the lead.  Along with the loudest cheer of the night thusfar, the announcer was now dangling out the opportunity that if the Canes scored 5 goals that night, that everyone would get free queso at Moe’s the next day!  This got the crowd going, and sure enough with but three minutes left, Chad LaRose knocks in the final and fifth goal for the Carolina Hurricanes, and with that, came the largest cheer of the night, a basically guaranteed win, and free queso.  We southerners love our cheese.

As the final buzzer sounded, Woman and I walked out, with our heads high, and confused about how we obtain our free queso.  I couldn’t help but smile; my first hockey game ever was a complete success.  Then my smile faded as I realized I didn’t note where I parked.

In Case Anyone Cares About the Pro Bowl

In the depths of winter in late January of every year, 100 or so of the best football players in the world get to leave their miserable cold hometowns and go half-ass a poor excuse for a football game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. No one watches the game, but almost every football fan in America votes for who “plays” in it. It is after all the NFL All-Star game. So let’s see who from your favorite teams offenses may make it to Hawaii at this point in the season:

Quarterbacks

AFC: Peyton Manning absolutely should get voted to Hawaii this year, hell he should be MVP with the way the Colts are playing without him, but that will not happen. With Peyton out though that does add an extra spot that has not been up for the taking for the past 10 years. Tom Brady is a lock as he is on pace to break Dan Marino’s regular season passing record. That leaves the other two spots to go to either Big Ben, Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even Matt Hasselback. Ben Roethlisberger should ultimately lead the black and yellow back into the mix and make it a very interesting division come seasons end. With someone else finally in front of that division that isn’t that a-hole and the dude with the super model leash, this Harvard boy will enjoy some seldomly experienced warm weather.

NFC: Especially at this point in the season Aaron Rodgers is a lock with his stellar passing stats and stellar team. And Drew Brees just tied Brett Favre for 36 consecutive games with at least one touchdown toss. But who takes that coveted third spot? “Elite” Eli? That guy who throws the ball to Megatron (Matt Stafford)? The stunner Alex Smith?Or maybe even rookie sensation Cam Newton? As of right now, I am giving Stafford the spot, good quarterbacks take advantage of their great receivers and no one is doing that better than him. Although if we see Cam improve at the rate he is, he could make a run. A rookie in the Pro Bowl?!

Running Backs

AFC: Fred Jackson, Arian Foster, and MJD. Running Backs are pretty straight foreward. High average yards per attempt, lots of touchdowns, few fumbles. Jones-Drew was a bit of a stretch, but I firmly believe that the Jaguars will soon see that the only way they will win is by very consistently giving this guy the ball. Barring injuries, these three men will have Pro Bowl worthy seasons.

NFC: LeSean “Shifty-Shady” McCoy has been lighting it up all season, as has Adrian Peterson. That leaves the last spot to Frank Gore or Matt Forte, both are extremely valuable to their respective teams, but what Forte brings with him receiving out of the backfield… is usually the ball. If we don’t see anymore Forte fumble follies like Monday against Philadelphia, then we will see him get laid (with some flowers).

Wide Receivers

AFC: Wes Welker has got his fourth straight Pro Bowl selection in the bag and boarded on his plane to Hawaii. At his stellar 4.33-40 yd pace, Mike Wallace will get his second ever selection. Vincent Jackson, even with his mere 50% catch when targeted rate, may just get selected for being tied for most receiving TDs in the AFC. Then Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall will be duking it out for that fourth spot, with rookie A.J. Green possibly coming in for the sneak attack.

NFC: Well my hometown hero Steve “Smitty” Smith is a lock, this year has reenergized this man’s career. This has been his best start since 2005 when at this point after 8 games he had 55 receptions for 903 yards and 9 TDs, this season he has 46 receptions for 918 yards and 4 TDs. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson will also be wearing a white and royal blue jersey in January, this monster could potentially be on pace to challenge Randy Moss’s single season receiving TD record of 23. Greg Jennings and Larry Fitzgerald are both more than skill-worthy, their problems are their quarterbacks though, Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball out and Kevin Kolb couldn’t spread shmear on a bagel. I guarantee at least one of the two if not both will make it though, Jeremy Maclin has also had a great year praying that his quarterback stays healthy.

Tight Ends

AFC: Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) has been banging people around left and right, on and off the field. I’m looking at you Bibi Jones, magical lady parts always getting us athletes in trouble. Also Heath Miller and Owen Daniels have served as great safety blankets for their respective quarterbacks. The tight end position is so underrated I think, such skill they must possess, not only skill though but size. The tight end club is a very exclusive one, full of many very frightening men.

NFC: Of all the former University of Miami tight ends playing right now, Jimmy Graham is the most explosive catching the ball, I am not sure about his blocking abilities, but that man sure is talented. Speaking of former University of Miami tight ends, it was Carolina Panthers own Jeremy Shockey that taught young Jimmy the ropes, hopefully he will do the same with Greg Olsen, who I do not believe will make it to the Pro Bowl this year unless there is a quick change of pace after the Panthers bye. Now someone like Fred Davis or Jasson Witten, I could see them playing in Honolulu this winter.

AFC

QB-Tom Brady NE

QB-Ben Roethlisberger PIT

QB-Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF

RB-Arian Foster HOU

RB-Fred Jackson BUF

RB-Maurice Jones-Drew JAC

WR-Wes Welker NE

WR-Mike Wallace PIT

WR-Anquan Boldin BAL

WR-Vincent Jackson SD

TE-Rob Gronkowski NE

TE-Heath Miller PIT

NFC

QB-Aaron Rodgers GB

QB-Drew Brees NO

QB-Matthew Stafford DET

RB-Lesean Mccoy PHI

RB-Frank Gore SF

RB-Adrian Peterson MIN

WR-Steve Smith CAR

WR-Calvin Johnson DET

WR-Greg Jennings GB

WR-Lary Fitzgerald ARI

TE-Jimmy Graham NO

TE-Fred Davis WSH

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One Response to Garret Mann

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