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Cam Newton: Everything 'outside the play' is just fluff

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Most media sessions during Super Bowl week amount to softball practice. These are great players on great teams and they are mostly asked to explain why they're so great.

Cam Newton was served one of those softballs Tuesday when asked to laud coach Ron Rivera's policy to let his players be themselves. This is a team that doesn't hide its personalities. Wasn't the personality of the Panthers integral to their success?

"I don't know if its helped us," Newton said. "Because we still have to play football."

Newton is a fun guy to listen to because he answers questions without automatically diving into NFL cliche-speak. He doesn't just let the reporter shape his opinion with the question. And Newton's opinion is that personality and all the narratives built around off-field attitude is overrated.

"A lot of people forget the true meaning of football. It doesn't matter outside the play. An NFL play is anywhere from four to six seconds. And in that four to six seconds you can pretty much be who you are or listening to coach and making sure you play out the exact things you've been coached to do," Newton explained. "And everything after that is kind of fluff."

Newton, of course, has drawn a lot of attention throughout his career for what has happened after those four to six seconds. From his news conference to his clothes to a towel on his head or his celebrations, Newton's star-wattage personality has often overshadowed an incredible performer's on-field growth.

Now that the Panthers are the dominant team in the land, our tendency is to look for some magical reason it all came together. Sure, this team is loose. Their talent and continuity is undeniable. But Newton has a strong point here: This squad has mastered its trade on the field this season, and everything else is secondary.

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