Newton: Race doesn't hinder position

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- That nine black quarterbacks started in the NFL's opening week isn't cause to celebrate, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers said Wednesday.

"Absolutely not,'' said Newton, one of the nine. "You don't have a bar mitzvah just because you are a starting African-American quarterback in this league.

"I'm fans of everybody. I just can't say I just root for Michael Vick, RG III (Robert Griffin III), Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and those guys."

The biggest number of black starting quarterbacks in one week had been eight, according to multiple reports.

The opening week black starting quarterbacks were Newton, Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay), Griffin (Washington), Kaepernick (San Francisco), EJ Manuel (Buffalo), Terrelle Pryor (Oakland), Geno Smith (New York Jets), Vick (Philadelphia) and Wilson (Seattle).

Seven of the nine were drafted in the past three years, beginning with Newton as the No. 1 pick in 2011.

"I don't think race ... hinders anybody at this position,'' Newton said. "Opportunities are opportunities, whether you are African-American, Chinese, Japanese, Caucasian, what have you. If you've got skill to play the game of football, you're going to play, no matter what your race.''

Sunday's game against Buffalo will mark two consecutive games for the Panthers in which both starting quarterbacks are black. They faced Wilson in Sunday's 12-7 loss.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera, like Newton, doesn't read a lot into it. He said race never has been a factor with him in deciding on a quarterback, or any other player.

"I grew up in the military,'' said Rivera, a former NFL linebacker whose father served in the U.S. Army. "There was no color. There was just rank.

"We drafted who we thought was the best football player, and that was Cam Newton. It amazes me we are still talking about that in 2013.''

Frederick Douglas Pollard of the Akron Pros in 1921 is credited as being the first black quarterback and later first black head coach in the NFL. In 1988, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, leading the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.

In 2001, Vick became the first black quarterback selected with the top pick of the draft. In 2006, Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans became the first black quarterback to win NFL rookie of the year. Newton was named the league's offensive rookie of the year in 2011.

While Newton has an appreciation for the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL, he doesn't consider himself a pioneer like Marlin Briscoe, Warren Moon, James Harris or Williams.

"I didn't feel any type of pressure coming into this league saying that I have to represent for all African-Americans,'' Newton said. "When I play this game, I play it to the best of my ability so I can inspire everyone, not just a particular set of people.''

Newton is most proud to prove that a 6-foot-5, 250-pound athlete can star as a quarterback.

"My job is one to be the best quarterback I can be,'' Newton said. "Along those ways I hope I can motivate, I can encourage, I can give someone a belief in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., or all across America -- or even across the world -- to say, 'Hey, Cam did it when he was 6-5 and 250. I don't have to be limited to just playing the offensive line or defensive line or safety or what have you.' ''