Cam Newton, like other rookies, will enter his first professional season facing a unique challenge. With no minicamps or organized team activities, it's up to Newton alone to prepare for the NFL.
And he has done just that. Since the draft, the new Carolina Panthers quarterback has been training at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., in a program directed by Chris Weinke -- like Newton a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback with the Panthers.
"He's going into a great situation. It's a great city. And I think he will be welcomed with open arms," Weinke told The Charlotte Observer. "But he also needs to understand that everybody welcomes you early on. And if you don't have success, you're going to have to deal with it in a positive way. Become a leader, even though you are a rookie."
Weinke, a two-sport athlete who spent six seasons playing minor-league baseball before enrolling at Florida State, spent six of his seven NFL seasons in Carolina and understands the pressure with which Newton will deal.
"Every rookie quarterback is going to struggle at some point. It doesn't matter where you came from," Weinke said last week. "It doesn't matter if you came from a complex collegiate offense, you're going to struggle when you get to the NFL. History shows it. So the quicker they can overcome those challenges and tough times, the more success they'll have moving forward."
Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, received the Panthers' playbook when the lockout was briefly lifted in April. In hands-on throwing sessions with Weinke, about 90 percent of the playbook has been installed. They simulate a play call, including cadence and terminology.
"You can feel comfortable. And you can feel good in an air-conditioned room," Weinke said. "And you can feel good when no one's rushing you and they're not blitzing you and all those different things.
"It's a different ball game when the lights are on."
On Thursday, Newton threw with New York Giants wide receiver Michael Clayton, Cleveland Browns tight end Alex Smith and Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Titus Young, as well a crop of small-college players.
Former NFL quarterback Ken Dorsey has also participated in the sessions, giving Newton tips on mechanics. Dorsey is on Weinke's IMG staff.
Newton, who also benefited from time with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and renowned quarterbacks coach George Whitfield, is expected to compete with Jimmy Clausen for the starting job in Carolina this season. Newton comes off a successful and controversial college career in Auburn, where his team claimed the BCS national title in January.