Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told the NFL Network on Tuesday that he's not envious of last year's rookie crop of quarterbacks who took the spotlight away from him, and if anything, they are motivating him to become a better player.
"No, by no means," Newton said in an interview from his school-pride event for students in Charlotte when asked whether he feels like a forgotten quarterback after the success of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.
"I'm a fan of those guys. Colin Kaepernick, I got an opportunity to know him well; we were roommates at the combine when we were coming out. RG III, he's won the Heisman. Andrew Luck -- those guys came in this league and took it by storm. Am I envious? No," Newton said. "If anything it challenges me to get better and just remember about this league that if you're not getting better, you're getting forgotten."
Newton was the 2011 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after a season in which he threw for 4,051 yards and scored 35 total touchdowns. In 2012 he threw for 3,869 yards and scored 27 total touchdowns. He also cut down on his interceptions, with 12 last season compared to 17 in his rookie season.
He said he's spent this offseason challenging himself to lose weight and "to become not a stronger player, but a smarter player."
He said quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have helped him in those areas.
Newton was asked whether he thought the Panthers have the weapons to challenge for the NFC South title in 2013. Carolina finished 7-9 last season, but the division has only gotten tougher with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beefing up their secondary with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, the New Orleans Saints having coach Sean Payton back at the helm and the already-loaded defending champion Atlanta Falcons adding Steven Jackson to their backfield.
"Absolutely. Absolutely," he said. "We're not going to bat an eye for nobody, especially anybody in this division."