CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said that while this season has been ''demoralizing,'' his struggles on the field aren't from a lack of preparation off of it.
Newton's numbers are down - way down - from his MVP season a year ago when he threw 35 touchdowns passes and led the Panthers to a 17-2 record and an appearance in the Super Bowl. He has only 14 TD passes through 11 games and the Panthers (4-8) are all but out of playoff contention entering Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers.
''It doesn't matter how much I prepare, if it doesn't translate on the field people will say `Oh he's garbage,''' Newton said. ''So for me, it's trying to get it to carry over from practice to games. It just hasn't (translated) this season, and I don't have nobody to blame but myself.''
But teammates and coaches are quick to rally to Newton's defense.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson said Newton is putting in just as many hours, if not more, in the film room this season. Anderson also suggested the mounting injuries to the offensive line have played a huge role in the team's decline.
''If anything at times, it's over, he does more'' work, Anderson said. ''When we were out in Oakland he was in (the film room) at 11 o'clock at night. So I know it's not from a lack of preparation. And it never has been. ... He does countless hours of stuff on his own and sometimes I'm like, `Go home. Get some sleep.'''
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who sat Newton for the opening series against Seattle on Sunday night for violating a team rule for not wearing a tie on the team flight, said he's never doubted his quarterback's dedication to getting better.
Rivera said it's also ''unfortunate'' that people don't see that Newton is a regular at the stadium on Tuesdays, normally the players' day off. The sixth-year head coach said his QB is routinely involved in developing strategy, drawing up potential plays on the grease board with coaches.
''The young man is dedicated and when he comes here it is phenomenal,'' Rivera said.
Still, Newton has been a lightning rod for criticism since he came into the league in 2011 as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
He's been chastised for how he handled himself during a Super Bowl news conference and for his touchdown dances on the field.
He also received some flak this past offseason for spending several weeks in California filming the children's show ''All in with Cam Newton'' for Nickelodeon instead of spending that time working on his football skills.
Newton defended his decisions, saying he has a ''life outside of football'' and no matter what he does he can't please everyone.
He wouldn't rule out doing the show again next offseason if the opportunity presents itself. Nor does he believe he had too many distractions in the offseason following the Super Bowl.
''I'm not living for people like that,'' Newton said. ''I am trying to inspire people as much as possible while I do have this (pedestal). If I do, then good. If I don't, then to pay me no mind doesn't hurt you.''
Rivera he was ''very confident'' in the preparations Newton put in during the offseason and that's all that matters.
''I understand we aren't having the season we need to have, but there is no reason for people to just maliciously go out and say, `He was worried about this or that,''' Newton said.
Newton has taken full accountability for his dress code violation on Sunday night, saying he's ''human'' and he made a mistake.
He also publicly dismissed some internet reports that the discipline was something other than a forgotten tie that resulted in him getting benched.
''I violated the wardrobe (rule) and that was it,'' Newton said. ''You don't have to dig into certain stories that I violated curfew or was out a club, or somebody was caught in a room. I still stand by coach Rivera's decision.''
Newton said he doesn't feel like he's ''above the law,'' saying ''I'm not that type of player.''
He also said he hopes the punishment serves as a warning for other players on the team to follow the team rules.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL