The Carolina Panthers will enter the 2014 season without a single wide receiver who had a catch for the team in 2013.
Cam Newton has heard the criticism that Carolina failed to adequately replace the departed veterans. The quarterback is using the disparaging tone as motivation for the entire team.
"The elephant in the room has already been stated," Newton said Wednesday, according to the Charlotte Observer. "Those guys have already accepted the challenge. You don't have to go in there and tell those guys, 'Hey, you're projected the sorriest receivers in the NFL.' We already know.
"But with that, those guys already have that fire in their eyes. I would rather those guys be like that and for them to go out there and bust their tails like they've been doing. It's kind of like a slap in -- not only their face -- but my face as well. The things that have been said, the reports, who cares? Because at the end of the day, we will be ready to play football, and Carolina Panthers football. Hard-nosed, and everybody's going to have to do their job."
Newton said the Panthers' pass-catchers were similarly dismissed heading into 2013. Newton threw a career-high 24 touchdown passes and finished with the highest passer rating of his career.
"This is something that is not new," Newton continued. "This is something that was expected last year. This is something that was expected the year before that, five years before that, 10 years before that. At the end of the day, when you look around those 11 specific position, everyone has to do their job. And I have no doubt in my mind, come game time, everyone will be on the same page with doing their rightful obligation."
Newton will enter his contract year with perhaps the weakest collection of receivers in football. He can't be thrilled about the situation, but he should be commended for taking the right approach. One can only wonder if his public stance matches his private thoughts.