Must be nice to be paid to be Newton

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- There are people who would pay to be Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Joe Webb gets paid to do it.

"We're two different guys,'' Webb laughed when asked how he liked imitating the team's franchise quarterback. "We have the same talent, some guys will say. We're still two different people. But I like being around Cam, yeah.''

The Panthers signed the free agent from Minnesota to a one-year deal worth $795,000 shortly after Newton underwent surgery in March to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle.

With Newton sidelined throughout offseason workouts, Webb simulated the read option that backup quarterback Derek Anderson admittedly can't because he's not the kind of runner the former UAB star is.

Webb has continued to do that in training camp, working with the first-team offense in read-option situations as the Panthers have limited Newton's running.

He's done well enough that coach Ron Rivera says Carolina could keep three quarterbacks on the final 53-man roster. That would buck the philosophy of keeping two that general manager Dave Gettleman brought with him from the Giants.

For Webb, this might be his last good chance to make a roster -- at least as a quarterback. The Vikings, who made him a sixth-round pick in 2010, moved him to wide receiver last season, and he became an afterthought.

When a 5-10-1 team doesn't think you're good enough to compete for a job with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman, there's a message.

Webb had a message of his own on Saturday, arriving at lunch wearing a T-shirt that said, "Talent ain't enough.''

"Not no more. Not when you're [trying] to make it in the NFL,'' he said.

The question for the Panthers is do they want to continue to limit Newton's runs in practice during the regular season. If they do, Webb might indeed have a spot. If the ankle appears strong enough where it's not a concern, it'll be a numbers game with other positions.

One thing is clear, Webb wants to remain a quarterback.

"That's my natural position,'' he said. "I've been doing quarterback most of my life.''

Webb is one of two UAB players trying to make the Carolina roster. Darrin Reaves, an undrafted free agent, is competing for the final spot at running back.

Reaves has shown flashes the last few practices with Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) and Kenjon Barner (back) out.

"He's running the ball strong,'' Webb said. "He's doing a good job of picking up the offense. I make sure I help him out. I can't have another Blazer out there looking crazy.''

Newton has helped Webb whenever possible.

"When I do something on the field in terms of the zone read, he'll come to me and say try to key where this defensive end is, how wide he is,'' Webb said. "He's helped me out in a lot of different areas.''

But as much as the Panthers want Webb to be like Newton, he never will be no matter how much they pay him.