Trash talk unites Cam Newton and Thomas Davis

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Thomas Davis stood a few feet away, like a predator surveying his prey, as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton danced and pranced during warmups.

“Trust me, I’m not even listening to what’s going on," the outside linebacker said. “I’m just trying to get Cam ready for practice."

Newton barked back, “You ain’t getting me ready. I’ve got auto-starter."

Davis turned and said, “Just my presence alone changes his whole mood."

No two members of the Panthers talk more trash than these two. They began training camp by taking pokes at each other -- Davis telling Newton he was too old for a blond goatee and the NFL MVP telling Davis he was too old for a Mohawk.

It continued two days ago with Newton predicting Davis would have a low rating of 16 in pass coverage on the new Madden NFL game.

Center Ryan Kalil compared the relationship to brothers, always competing and always getting under each other’s skin. Coach Ron Rivera summed it up in one word.

“Weird," Rivera said.

It’s a good weird, though. This isn’t a relationship like the one Newton and cornerback Josh Norman had early during training camp a year ago.

Norman got under Newton’s skin to the point that the pair exploded into a brawl after Norman intercepted a pass. Davis said there’s nothing he or Newton could say that would take things to that level.

“What we have going on is nothing like what happened last year," Davis said. “It’s extremely competitive. It’s all about making each other better and all about having fun doing what we love to do."

“Because I know what he’s doing when he’s out talking trash, and he understands what I’m doing when he’s talking trash. It’s to make Cam Newton the best quarterback he can possibly be for our football team."

And Newton’s goal is to make the defense the best it can be.

“Thomas is the most competitive guy I know, and you could put Cam in that same frame of mind," Rivera said. “It’s that competition they have to keep pushing each other.

“TD thinks it’s his job to continually stress Cam by challenging him. That’s a good thing. They have tremendous respect for one another."

They also love pushing each other’s buttons, which ultimately pushes the other to get better

“Nothing’s off-limits when we’re on the field, because we’re competing," Davis said. “There’s never an opportunity or chance that we’re going to go out and insult each other to where it hurts somebody’s feelings or where it’s actually bad for our football team."

Newton isn’t the first Carolina quarterback with whom Davis has exchanged jabs. He and Jake Delhomme used to go at it all the time, but few noticed because Delhomme never reached Newton’s celebrity status.

“Jake Delhomme used to talk as much trash as Cam does right now," Davis said. “He was a fiery guy and loved to compete."

If Davis had to pick who was best at trash talking, he’d give a slight edge to Newton.

“Cam probably talks more trash than anybody," Davis said. “But I’m not going to let him talk trash to me without handing it back."

Davis can more than hold his own. When Newton was predicting a low rating for Davis in the new Madden NFL game, Davis told him to “throw it my way and I’ll show you what 16 looks like."

Davis laughed that Newton’s goal in training camp was to make sure neither he nor middle linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted a pass.

“Listen, if that’s his goal, he’s doing a great job of staying away from us and going to Shaq [Thompson]," Davis said in a sarcastic tone. “We see how that’s working out."

Thompson has an interception in each of the last two practices.

The first thing Newton did after Thompson’s interview on Saturday was exchange a few words with Davis and Kuechly on the sideline.

“Cam is just going to go talk," Kuechly said. “That’s what he does. He’s going to figure out a way to throw some jabs back and forth."

Davis never hesitates to throw them right back.

“Listen, Cam can do what he likes to do with his hair or whatever he wants to do with his body," Davis said. “As far as my mohawk, the standards have been set. My son is rocking a Mohawk, and I’m kind of in that same line of rocking it with him.

“I really don’t care what Cam thinks about it."

He also doesn’t care what people think about the trash talking between him and Newton.

“People may look at it as weird, but we understand what we’re doing," he said. “When you can talk trash and look back on it and laugh on it, that’s when you know it’s all about the brotherhood and making each other better."