Cam Newton had right answer on captains

I’m more than a little surprised at the stir that came last week when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he eventually wants to be a team captain.

That prompted several columns by media members who were critical of Newton’s maturity level.

I’m not going to criticize other media here. But I think some of Newton’s critics missed the point.

Newton wasn’t lobbying for a captaincy. He simply was asked if he would like to be a captain at some point.

“I recognize -- and everyone knows around the league -- when you’re a team captain that’s not just a patch on the jersey. You’re holding yourself to a higher standard with being accountable,” Newton said. “I’m going about it each and every day and trying to make that happen.”

That’s exactly the type of answer Newton should have given. Every quarterback should want to be a captain.

But Newton’s an easy target because he is a big name and he has sometimes let his emotions get the most of him. Even coach Ron Rivera referred to Newton as “Mr. Mopeyhead’’ in his rookie year.

That reputation has stayed with Newton. But I saw signs he was maturing the second half of last season. I think what he said when asked about becoming a captain showed another step forward.

“Team captain is solely based off of your peers,” Newton said. “I’m going about it each and every day, trying to do my part to prove not only to my team, but first myself, that’s a big responsibility on the field and off the field.”

Yes, an ideal leader is always on an even keel. Newton wasn’t always there in his first two seasons. But, if he can act the way he talked the other day, he someday will end up as a captain.

The good news is Newton doesn’t have to force it because the Panthers are set for the moment with Jordan Gross and Steve Smith as their offensive captains. If Newton continues to mature, he’ll get his shot in a year or two.