Cam Newton hasn't been quite himself this season.
Whether it has been his up and down play, his dress code fiasco or his beef with officiating, there's frequently been something to do with the star quarterback in a season that has been one to forget for Carolina. He had one of his worst games Saturday in a loss to Atlanta, completing just 18 of 43 attempts for 198 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
But we can't overlook the shoulder injury he's been battling through, which could have been responsible for his afternoon filled with errant passes and below-average play. Ron Rivera thinks that might be the case, saying the injury -- which the Panthers have been reluctant to disclose additional information on -- "probably" had a negative effect on Newton's play.
Cam won't accept that crutch.
"It's all right. There's no need to dwell on something," Newton said, via the Charlotte Observer. "I'm not gonna blame nothing but my production. Production hasn't been solid, and that's me. I can't point to something and say, well, this is the reason more so than it just hasn't been carrying over to the game."
Denver created the blueprint to bottle up Brett Favre back in Super Bowl XXXII, and soon, the rest of the league was playing copycat to limit the Hall of Famer. Perhaps the Broncos have done the same to Newton, who has seen more pressure and frequent hits from defenders in 2016 in the aftermath of Super Bowl 50, a game in which he was almost constantly harassed by defenders.
Newton didn't get help in that game from his receivers, whose drops short-circuited Carolina's formerly potent offense. Newton got a quick reminder of that loss in Week 1 of the 2016 season, in which Denver repeatedly hit the quarterback, starting a string of games in which he was abused by defenders. The increased pressure and contact even had Newton calling for closer officiating, and might have been a sign the opposing defenses were getting into his head.
That kind of harassment, the off-field drama and the weight of attempting to repeat as NFC champions has taken a toll on Newton, who said "it's time for guys to have a sabbatical." Fortunately for the Panthers, they're a week away from the offseason.