CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton doesn't know why ratings have been down in the NFL this season, but he knows what he'd like to see more of: players having fun and celebrating.
The reigning NFL MVP says the league has to understand that allowing players to express themselves is good for the game.
"I really can't talk on their ratings," Newton said Tuesday as he prepared for a Thursday night game against the Saints. "But in some way, shape, form or fashion, we are entertainers. Our influence ranks second-to-none at this time of the year."
Few, if any, in the league expressed himself more last season than Newton, whose "Dab" after touchdown runs spread throughout the country. Newton brought back the Atlanta-based dance in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to Kansas City after proclaiming it retired following the 2015 season.
He's not sure whether he'll continue to dab the rest of the season.
But Newton would like the league to allow more celebrating.
"You're asking a person who celebrates," he said with a smile.
Newton grew up in Atlanta watching cornerback Deion "Prime Time" Sanders, known for high-stepping and showboating after big plays.
Beckham did his version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Newton began softly singing the lyrics to the song as he described it.
"Football is hard, man," Newton said. "I can't stress it enough. The way my body feels right now is not going to be the same way it feels come Thursday. Now I'm sore, but still knowing that Thursday I gotta give everything.
"And if scoring a touchdown, getting a sack, getting a win ... let alone all of that bottled up and staying here until 10 at night and here at 6 in the morning, all of that energy that you put, spending time away from your family, all of that bottled up and being able to do exactly what you planned and foresaw yourself doing, you are owed something."
Newton, whose foundation sponsors a 7-on-7 football tournament, says he sees his influence and the influence of other NFL players throughout the year talking to kids.
"So when you come out in blue cleats or white cleats, gold cleats, whatever cleats ... When you come out and do a certain dance, people are watching," Newton said. "And when you nuke that, I wouldn't say the ratings may get affected. I don't know what you can determine to that.
"[But] I'm an advocate of youth football, and every time I look on social media or wherever, and I see kids from where I grew up in Atlanta wearing your cleats to doing the whatever, it's just mind-boggling. And you have to understand your worth to giving back to your community, as well as the league has to understand it's entertaining for people to see that."
Newton recalled how he was influenced by the University of Miami football team as a kid in terms of wanting to wear a bandanna as he wears now.
"I wasn't from Miami, but they didn't know how important they were for my overall growth for the love of football," Newton said. "I am pretty sure there are people that I don't know that I wish I could talk to.
"It's just football brings a lot of people together. I saw one commercial the NFL put together where it says football is family -- and it really is. On a Sunday, on any given day that football is on, collegiate, high school and professional, it brings a lot of people together."