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Cam Newton not alone in saying 'calling a play shouldn't be a paragraph'

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton admitted he's not the best playcaller and that (0:24)

Panthers QB Cam Newton admitted he's not the best playcaller and that some calls are too long. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner admitted his playcalls sometimes get too long and he has tried to shorten them over the years. So an ideal number of words? Here's Turner's explanation: Video by David Newton (0:24)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton was struck by something most people probably didn't notice on Monday night as he watched New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees break the NFL record for career passing yards.

It had nothing to do with the milestone.

It was the number of words in a playcall, which the Carolina Panthers quarterback shared with offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

"I'm not the best playcaller," Newton said. "Calling a play shouldn't be a paragraph. [Brees] called a play and I was like, 'Nah.' Then I told Norv we're going to have to call a one-liner ... Panther. Tepper. Rivera. Something.

"I be in the huddle. I'm already tired. I ain't got time to be saying this that, the third, the third, the third, ready, ready, break. You only get so much time."

The topic came up as Newton talked about the return of Panthers Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who re-fractured his right foot in the season opener, for Sunday's Week 6 game at the Washington Redskins. Not only is Olsen a security blanket for Newton as a receiver, but he apparently helps the 2015 NFL MVP call plays.

"I call him the dictator in the huddle," Newton said. "I really have problems calling plays, even in Year 8. He just helps me."

Olsen said Newton was "being generous," that he doesn't help more than anybody else.

But Turner, 66, admitted Newton isn't the first quarterback to claim his plays are too long, and he has made an effort to shorten them.

"There's a fine line between making sure everybody knows what to do and making the calls as short as possible," Turner said. "When you have a lot of rotating players as we've had on the offensive line and at a lot of other positions, sometimes you add another word to make sure the guy knows what he's supposed to do."

Injuries have been a factor. At one point during a 3-1 start, center Ryan Kalil was the only member of the offensive line at the same position where he began in training camp.

The Panthers have been without Olsen since the first quarter of the opener, and wide receiver Curtis Samuel missed the first three games after a procedure for an irregular heartbeat.

Also, this is a new system for Newton, who had the same terminology under Rob Chudzinski (2011-12) and Mike Shula (2013-17) from the time he entered the NFL, before Turner took over in January.

"They can be a little long sometimes," said Panthers wide receiver Jarius Wright, who was in Turner's system with the Minnesota Vikings for 2½ years before coming to Carolina. "It can be hard getting used to.

"Sometimes [Newton] kind of mumbles over the words. But we know the offense and Cam knows what's going on. He might not be able to say the plays easy. Trust me, there's some paragraphs out there."

Newton isn't alone in sometimes struggling with long plays. Former New Orleans backup quarterback Garrett Grayson said his biggest adjustment from college to the NFL was getting comfortable with the playcalls.

"I'm just trying to get all the verbiage down, because some of the plays we have are about 10 words longer than I've ever called," Grayson told ESPN.com in 2015. "You know, it's something when you've got a playcall that's 16 words long, and then you gotta go in with confidence and tell everybody what to do.

"Sometimes you can get tripped up in your words."

Newton hasn't had past trouble with playcalls against Washington (2-2). He has a record of 4-0 with nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 115.4 against the Redskins.

His two interceptions on Sunday against the New York Giants weren't about miscommunication on the playcalling, either. They had more to do with rookie tight end Ian Thomas not finishing the route or running it incorrectly.

Overall, Newton has adjusted well to Turner's system. He has completed 65.4 percent of his attempts, well ahead of his career 58.5 percentage through his first seven seasons.

He also is well ahead of his season-best 61.7 percent in 2013.

"It's difficult, but he's doing a great job of learning Norv's offense," said backup QB Taylor Heinicke, who spent his first season and a half under Turner at Minnesota. "I remember my rookie year, first time with Norv -- Cam is like years ahead of that."

Heinicke also agrees the shorter the playcall the easier it is for the quarterback to get the play from the coordinator via a speaker in the helmet, relay it to everyone in the huddle and get the play off within 40 seconds.

"It's always easier when you have a three- to four-word playcall," Heinicke said. "Sometimes, with our offense, we like to do a lot of stuff, so it's going to be a longer playcall."

Heinicke also admitted some quarterbacks like longer plays.

"I was with Shaun Hill in Minnesota," he said. "He said it paints a picture for him, that he can visualize it while he's saying it. Other quarterbacks, it's like call one word and everyone knows what we're doing."

But playcalling has gotten much shorter since 1991, when Turner first was an offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.

"We're in a system where 20 years ago we did tell everybody what to do on every play," Turner said. "That's five receivers and then the offensive line. There's a protection, a formation, a shift and all that. We've tried to tighten that down and make it easier on everybody."

So what's Turner's ideal number of words for a playcall?

"We can go Dodge, Lincoln, and that's a play," Turner said. "That's a good number for everybody. Now we can go up and go shift, jack, right, slot, toy, key, left, 7, 8, 6, f-drag, sneak. So you can go either way with it."