Cam Newton did the right thing talking on 'Garbage Bag Day'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The past four years Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has disappeared into the offseason without talking to the media on the day players clean out their lockers.

On Tuesday, he stopped to talk.

It was the right thing to do.

It was the only thing he could do.

Had Newton not addressed criticism for walking out on reporters after only a handful of questions after the Super Bowl 50 loss to Denver and for not attempting to dive on a fumble late in the fourth quarter, the criticism would have continued.

Tuesday might be his and the organization’s attempt at damage control, but at least that criticism won't come without Newton’s side of the story. At least everyone knows now where the newly crowned league MVP stands.

Had Newton not talked this might have prompted an offseason discussion about the maturity of the fifth-year quarterback. Every time coach Ron Rivera or general manager Dave Gettleman did offseason interviews, the mental state of the franchise quarterback would have been a topic.

Had Newton not talked teammates would continue to be questioned about what happened as they were on Tuesday.

“I listen to Christian rap and I have a guy I listen to named Eshon Burgundy," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “He made this quote in one of his raps: ‘They’ll hail you to nail you.’

“It’s just the nature of man. They look for that moment to really drive it in on you."

Said tight end Greg Olsen: “If anybody wants to question how much Cam cares, if anyone wants to question how hard he plays, the sacrifices that he makes with his body, the sacrifice he makes with just the way he plays that position, then not only are they uninformed, they’ve probably never watched us play a down."

Olsen called the narrative comical. But had Newton not talked this would have been the narrative during his first interview of offseason workouts.

As fullback Mike Tolbert said when asked why Newton didn’t attempt to recover the fumble with Carolina trailing by six, “That’s dust under the rug."

It should stay there, whether you believe Newton’s explanation that his leg was contorted in a way that he risked injury by going after the loose ball or not.

Newton’s toughness never has been questioned, even though his maturity has.

If you saw him chase down cornerback Josh Norman in training camp you'd know that. If you saw him carry a handful of Atlanta tacklers the final four yards for a first down in a late-season game you'd know that.

The Panthers should be talking about what they accomplished during a 17-2 season, not about what Newton did or didn’t do in two isolated cases.

And they accomplished a lot, as Gettleman said when referring to how the team overcame the loss of star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee) in training camp to have the best record in the NFL.

“What we accomplished as a group, as an organization, is very unique," he said.

Newton agreed. He called this an “unbelievable season, a great season at that." He reminded the media that the Panthers were bordering on perfection at 14-0.

“The truth of the matter is, we’ve got two losses," Newton said. “Some teams had two losses the first two weeks. For me, things are pretty much unchanged."

Newton speaking changed the focus back to the team. It allowed him to put the spotlight back on the future instead of the past.

“We will be back," he said, echoing one of his short comments after the Super Bowl. “I mean that. We will be back. I say that with so much emphasis.

“If I offended somebody, that’s cool. I know who I am and I’m not about to conform nor bend for anybody’s expectations, because your or anybody else’s expectations will never exceed mine."

Had Newton not talked, he wouldn’t have been able to drill that point home.

Whether you agree or disagree on what Newton did Sunday, he did the right thing Tuesday.