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NFC South Q&A: How is Cam Newton viewed within the division?

Today's question: Cam Newton seems to be a lightning rod for as much criticism as he gets praise. How does the rest of the division view the league MVP? Is the Carolina Panthers quarterback liked, or do players consider him a phony?

Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: I talked to a few Bucs defensive players for this, and, overall, they respect him. He's bigger than most running backs, so he certainly gives them fits with his ability to run. "Tackling him is a chore," one player said. As far as celebrating, the guys I talked to didn't have much of a problem with it. One said that it's their job to keep him out of the end zone and if they don't, he can do what he wants. Another said that, having grown up watching Jamal Anderson do the "Dirty Bird" and the Rams have group celebrations in the end zone, he thinks it's cool -- "It's a game at the end of the day." Players are more aware of how the media and general public can take a narrative and run with it, which some would argue is what happened with Cam. They also understand how emotions ride high in big games.

Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: My impression is that players aren't bothered so much by Newton's dancing and celebrating on its own. But I think they can be turned off by how he does that when things are going well, then pouts when things aren't going well. There is no question, however, that players respect Newton's talent. He is as physically impressive as anyone the Saints face in or out of the division, with an ability to take over games. And he was widely credited for his improvement as a passer last year. It's hard to argue when Newton backs up his bravado on the field -- and he did that an awful lot last season.

Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: Well, I can tell you one player who didn't necessarily buy into Newton. Former Falcons linebacker O'Brien Schofield wasn't a big fan of how Newton carried himself after the Falcons surprisingly knocked the Panthers from the ranks of the undefeated last season. Schofield thought Newton's actions afterward were those of a sore loser. At the same time, Schofield also was one of a handful of defensive players in the Atlanta locker room who defended Newton's touchdown dances, saying he shouldn't be so scrutinized when Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers virtually does the same with his championship belt/discount double check celebration. Reading between the lines, it was obvious some players felt Newton drew added scrutiny being a black quarterback. In general, I think the Falcons respect Newton's talent regardless of color and regardless of how he carries himself. Can he be a little arrogant? Of course. Why wouldn't he be with the success he's enjoyed at every level? But I don't think Newton is the most hated guy around. I think most opposing players would side with Newton over Tom Brady any day.