Panthers TE Greg Olsen defends Cam Newton, cites 'world of today'

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen on Sunday defended quarterback Cam Newton regarding verbal attacks from former teammate Kelvin Benjamin, saying the 2015 NFL MVP has been the best thing to happen to his career.

Benjamin, who was traded to the Buffalo Bills midway through last season, told "The Athletic'' that he would have been better off the first three and a half years of his career had he been with a quarterback with better accuracy and "knowledge" of the game than Newton.

Olsen had no idea what sparked the 6-foot-5 wide receiver to make those remarks.

"It's kind of weird,'' Olsen said. "We all wish Kelvin the best. Obviously, things change. Again, we've talked at length about how guys around here feel about Cam. Obviously, you don't like people going after your quarterback.

"But Cam knows how the guys feel here about him. I would imagine that's what he holds the most credence to.''

Olsen is at the top of Newton's fan club even though the three-time Pro Bowl selection has been criticized by others for a career completion percentage of 58.5 and the Panthers hired Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator to in part improve Newton's percentage.

Olsen recalled that he became a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with Newton.

He can't imagine that Newton hurt Benjamin's growth or career as the wide receiver indicated.

"He was the MVP, wasn't he?'' Olsen reminded of Newton's 2015 season in which he threw a career-high 35 touchdown passes with Benjamin sidelined with a torn ACL suffered in training camp. "Just in general, you play with an MVP quarterback. There's like four or five of them in the league, right?

"Obviously, you know how I feel and how we feel about Cam, which I think right now is all that matters. ... People have opinions. That's just the world of today.''

The Panthers actually were better without Benjamin, going 21-3 the past four years when the former Florida State star wasn't on the field, 18-21-1 with him.

Newton did not talk to reporters after a Sunday afternoon practice despite numerous requests for him. But early in the two-hour session at Wofford College, at the beginning of a passing drill, he seemed to take a shot at Benjamin although he didn't mention the receiver's name.

"Think I'm a liability,'' Newton said. "I think I'm an asset.''

Newton's only public comments since Benjamin's remarks came on Saturday night in an Instagram story.

"Hey, I ain't going to go back and forth with him. I'm just going to work. You feel me? That's all it is, you know what it is. Just work, baby," Newton said in the video while walking on a treadmill.

Coincidence or not, Newton seemingly threw more than normal to Jarius Wright, who wears the No. 13 Benjamin wore at Carolina from the time he was selected with the 28th pick of the 2014 draft.

Newton left the field after practice in a golf cart flashing a big smile as he drove past screaming fans wanting an autograph.

Asked how Newton handled Benjamin's comments, Olsen smiled and said, "He was fine today. He was himself. I don't think it had much of an impact.''

Coach Ron Rivera declined to talk about Benjamin's comments or whether Bills coach Sean McDermott, the former defensive coordinator at Carolina, contacted him to apologize.

"I'll talk about our players and what we have here,'' Rivera said. "It's time to move on.''

McDermott was critical of Benjamin for making the comments when addressing reporters in Buffalo.

"There's a time and a place -- I'm not saying specific to what comments were made -- there's a time and place for things like that," said McDermott, whose team hosts the Panthers on Thursday night in the preseason opener for both teams. "This was not one of them. We have a lot of respect for our opponents, No. 1, and everyone in the league.

"I've spoken with Kelvin, and that's not how I want us to handle things like that. So we'll move forward as a team, and I'm hoping we've already done that."

Benjamin told reporters he was "angry'' at the time he made the comments about Newton to "The Athletic.'' He also said he didn't have plans to reach out to Newton.

Olsen agreed with Rivera that is time for Benjamin to move on.

"We enjoyed Kelvin,'' he said. "For the most part he was a good person to have around. Things didn't work out here for him. I get it. I know what that's like. You'd like to kind of see him move forward to his new team, embrace his new opportunity, rather than go personal on it.''