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Newton's lofty goals leave NFL searching to uncover motivation

A DOUBLE TWEET QUESTIONING MY 'CONTEXT.' From @marcusmyers: "Context definitely impacted that quote as you initially presented it in a more questionable light than it ended up being ... Agree he could've used better words but you also could've been more forthcoming w/the context. You wanted buzz. You got it.''

Originally, I presented it in no light. Simply the quote, followed by the thought that it would make quarterback-needy teams blanch, which it did.

HAL THINKS I'M WRONG. "Respectfully, I think you are off base about the issue of context as relates to Cam Newton's comment. As you state, the interview was arranged by Under Armour. While in the middle of the most multifaceted prep he has ever been a part of in his life, a 21-year-old kid answered the question in the context of his Under Armour commitments. He was probably sitting in their suite surrounded by PR and marketing people building up his salesmanship for the brand and essentially answered as an endorser.

That is forgivable given the circumstance, context and his age. I doubt he has figured out how to shift smoothly from player to endorser to private citizen in his short time on this earth. He'll get better, but an entertainer and icon statement in the middle of marketing/PR training and sponsored media availabilities makes sense. I think he made an honest mistake that additional training and rest will ensure never happens again.

I don't see this as ANY deal, let alone a big one. Let's remember that no matter how hyped or accomplished a young athlete is, that accomplishment and polish does not always or completely translate to other parts of their lives, particularly off-field. In most cases, 21 is 21, still trying to figure things out and make sense of all the change around you.''-- Hal, Harlem, N.Y.

That's a good point, Hal. And in no way do I think just because he made a statement about wanting to be not only a good football player, but also an entertainer and icon, will it be impossible for him to be a great football player. Not at all. But I do think it's a red flag. At the end of the day, this shouldn't eliminate teams from considering him as a first-round draft pick. It should just make them do the serious kind of homework they need to do ... and to determine if football's the driving force in his life.

HE WOULDN'T PICK NEWTON. "Read your column ever week and just had a quick thought/question about your spat with Cam and his people. I see a player with a checkered past in his decision-making come into the pre-draft with publicists and handlers galore. He has great physical talent, no question, but I'd run, not walk, away from picking this guy simply because he can't make a good decision without someone making it for him. At the position that requires the most good decisions to be made, this armada of handlers screams 'he can't make a good decision!' Isn't this a huge red flag?'' --Daniel Rowe, Centerville, Utah

It is a red flag. What was funny in Indianapolis was I heard a lot of people with no quarterback need, like Giants GM Jerry Reese, say the concern about Newton's words was much ado about nothing. The people who are in the quarterback market were concerned -- some of them very much more.

INTERESTING THOUGHTS RE CAM THE QUARTERBACK. "Thanks for the weekly MMQBs. As a long-time Auburn fan, I thought I'd toss you my impressions of Cam's development under Gus Malzahn this year, especially considering the current perception among League personnel guys you pointed out in your column, that Cam's a one-read QB.

From spring training through the first part of the season, I'd say that perception was accurate. Cam would look to his first read, and if his receiver was covered, he'd jettison any thoughts of looking through his progression. He'd see an opening, and it would be off to the races.

I'd say, however, that changed after the first South Carolina game, when Gus and coach Gene Chizik put the clamps on, specifically in the Little-Sisters of the Poor games, and forced him to make the reads. Then, throughout the year, like in the Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama games, when teams figured out the way to stop him running was to fill the gaps up front and rush the ends, Cam had no choice but to make his reads and toss the ball to his open receivers.

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When forced to make those adjustments, under pressure, he became more of a complete player. Of course, that forced defenses to back off and play more coverage, which, in turn, opened the front for more rushes. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of coaches in the SEC glad to see Cam at the combine this week instead of getting ready for his senior farewell.'' -- Brad, Birmingham, Ala.

Great e-mail, Brad. I really appreciate your thoughts ... but I have one lingering question. If Newton changed, particularly in those three games, then why he did he run the ball 63 times and throw it 59 times, collectively, against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama? When I asked NFL people about how much he ran in 2010 -- 262 times, compared to 280 throws -- I know it's something the teams who are in the market for a quarterback are investigating a lot right now.

NEWTON VS. VINCE YOUNG. "Cam Newton strikes me as remarkably similar to Vince Young a few years ago. He's a remarkably gifted athlete with limited/unknown intelligence and large character questions. Do you see any risk in drafting him with a first-round pick?''-- Ross Hansen, of Rochester, N.Y.

Yes, but I also see risk in drafting the other quarterbacks too. A few years ago, Brian Billick had a great line about quarterback-drafting: "There's a 50-percent success rate in drafting quarterbacks high. No matter how much work you do, you can't eliminate the risk.'' I agree that the athleticism of Newton and Young is comparable. But I think Newton is a more accurate thrower, and he was more accurate as a college thrower than Young -- not by much, but he was more accurate.

I DON'T KNOW. "Do athletes like Cam Newton read the stories written about them on a regular basis? Newton seems like an intriguing prospect, no question, but he seems to have trouble with keeping a steady public image. I am curious whether that comes from a lack of awareness of what his image actually is, or if he doesn't care as much as he should. But it is clear from your column this week that if he is reading the stories about himself, he isn't fully aware of the connection between the words he says and his relative draft stock. As a GM, this would worry me a great deal.''-- Ian Brekke, Long Beach, Calif.

Ian, I wouldn't want a quarterback who was maniacal about his image. I'd want a quarterback who lived his life the same way every day and didn't have to worry about controlling the exact words that come out of his mouth or the exact actions he took every day.

ON ACCURACY. "Why do you tell us not to worry too much about Cam Newton's accuracy issues when you slam Jake Locker for his?''-- Bruno, New York

Pretty simple. Newton completed 66 percent of his throws at Auburn. Locker completed 55 percent at Washington.

WE'RE GIVING NEWTON A PASS. "Just wanted to say it is amazing and disappointing how you NFL media guys are largely giving Cam Newton a pass on many of the very same issues everyone supposedly had such grave "doubts" about with regards to Tim Tebow. "Spread" system, footwork, taking snaps under center, etc. If I didn't think I knew better, I would guess that the NFL media WANTS guys with questionable character to get in the league so you'll always have a deep well of potential stories to write about.

The media's relative fawning over Cam Newton is just another item proving that Tim Tebow has been the most unjustly criticized/picked apart NFL QB prospect, probably in the HISTORY of the league. Hope you guys know lots of ways to prepare crow for meals, you're going to be eating a lot of it.''-- Joshua, Laurelville, Ohio

I take it you like Tebow. I think you need to go back and google "Peter King Tim Tebow'' and see if I've been a Tebow-knocker. You might be surprised.