It will sound absurd to a lot of people: Cam Newton got benched for not wearing a tie on the team plane. Really? But there’s a lot more to it than just a tie. For me, maybe just playing that position and seeing guys do it the right way, a different level is expected.
You never see that from a team leader, an NFL MVP. The quarterback is the last guy who should ever have a dress code violation. That’s just the way it is. He’s an extension of the head coach and the coaching staff, and if he’s not, if you have a guy that’s just doing his own thing, then your team is going to do that, too.
I don’t want to put it all on him, but you look at why that team is struggling and now he’s getting benched. This is not the first time – we’ve all forgotten a jacket or a tie or we didn’t have the appropriate whatever. Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin would look at your shoes when you walked into the meeting the night before the game to make sure you had appropriate dress-causal shoes on. If they were tennis shoes, he would fine you. No one ever got benched for a first offense. For me, that just says this has happened before with the Panthers and it’s a problem. Coughlin would call it insubordination. I’m not going to go that far because I don’t know what happened, but it just might be.
Newton is as talented as they come. He’s probably the one quarterback that we’ll ever see in this league who can run the football the way he does with power and can throw it downfield with accuracy and velocity. But with that comes a responsibility, and there are a lot of eyes are on you.
Whatever it is, yeah it might be crazy but that’s the rule.
To the opposite extreme I’ll use Eli Manning – and I use him as an example a lot, but this is a perfect one. We’re going out for practice and Coughlin wanted us in full pads and everyone decided we’re not wearing full pads – we’re just going to wear helmets and jerseys. Everybody did that, except Manning. He went out in full pads after telling us we were crazy, that Coughlin is not going to go for it, that he wants us in full pads for a reason.
He’s in full pads, by himself. And this is the year after the Giants won the Super Bowl. I’m just following everyone else; I’ve been there for two weeks. I threw my shirt, shorts and helmet on and went out to the field and Coughlin sent every one of us back in to put on full pads. Manning was the only one to follow the rules.
So how I see last weekend for the Panthers: Everybody else on that plane should have had on what Newton had on and he should have had a tie on. As the leader of the team, he shouldn’t be the one guy going against the rules. He should be the one guy that is in the tie.
That’s the difference.
I can only speak about the four head coaches that I had, but they were all the same. They all had a specific dress attire that they wanted. It’s on your itinerary. You get it three days ahead of time. Every coach I’ve been around has been the same way. John Fox is probably the most laid-back guy you’ll ever meet, but he still has the same type of dress code. Whether it’s jeans or a polo or a tie and a coat, it’s all about the team.
Newton is as talented as they come. He’s probably the one quarterback that we’ll ever see in this league who can run the football the way he does with power and can throw it downfield with accuracy and velocity. But with that comes a responsibility, and there are a lot of eyes on you.
He’s trying. You can tell he’s trying. He has been better in his news conferences. But it’s things like this that come up, and your team is never going to consistently be there if you’re so up and down as the leader of a team.
You can’t be the guy who gets on the plane and everybody is saying, “Oh, where’s Cam’s tie? Oh, Cam didn’t bring a tie. Oh, Cam doesn’t care about coach Ron Rivera’s rules.” It’s a little thing, but it’s big when 100 guys see it. The owner sees it and he knows the coach asked everyone to wear one so now the owner is going to turn around and ask Rivera what Newton is doing.
There are so many problems that you just don’t want. Rivera’s hand was forced. People will say, “That’s crazy. You can’t make him sit out.” But that conversation could happen, where the owner just turns around and says, “What’s up with Cam? Where’s his tie?” It might not even be Ron’s rule – it might be the owner’s rule.
If it’s a kicker, they might not even look at him. But I guarantee you, everyone is watching Newton and what he’s doing.
Question of the week
From Cole Henkel: I was wondering if the NFL would see a decrease in the number of concussions if it practiced tackling correctly with the help of the U.S. Rugby team, and if so do you think the decrease would be huge or slight? I play rugby for the Bullard Rugby Club. It will be my fourth year playing. I think that promoting rugby in earlier years could help reduce the number of concussions young athletes suffer.
Absolutely. The Gator Tackle. That’s what the Seattle Seahawks are teaching. That’s what we teach at Bakersfield Christian and we haven’t had a documented concussion in the two years we’ve been here. Now, that’s not saying that we have it right, because I don’t know how to tackle. But my brother, Darren, he’s really good at it. He has studied it a lot and he got all of his information from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and those guys. It’s a rugby tackle. It’s a lot safer than the old, “OK, put your forehead right on this kid’s thigh bone and then run right through it.” I’m all for it.
It’s hard to quantify its impact. But it’s a good technique to use. A lot of teams in our area are starting to use it. We teach it at our clinics. At our camps, there’s a session with the offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers and that’s with my brother Darren and Ryan Clanton, who played here at Bakersfield Christian with Derek and went on to play at Oregon, and Nick Onaindia, who I played against when he was at Utah State and played against locally, they all teach it.
It’s the right way to do it, and it’s not just us. I know in the Golden Empire youth football leagues in Bakersfield there is a mandatory clinic for it now. The biggest difference, at the very root of it, it’s not necessarily a strike, it’s more of a head on the up-field side and you grab the legs and roll your body. It’s a very effective technique. The NFL does a great job, too, with the Heads Up program. They make sure the coaches have gone through those clinics, have gone through those courses before they can even coach your young child because it’s very important. They’re trying to do a lot of things to make it better.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
Win a football autographed by David Carr
Each week, David will answer one reader’s question in this column – and that lucky reader will receive an NFL football signed by David. Post your question as a comment on the column at www.fresnobee.com/sports/nfl.
Everyone who poses a question to David this season will be entered in a season-ending drawing – and the winner gets a personal appearance with David at a 2017 Fresno-area event.