Saturday, 31 December 2011 19:46

Brees, Cam Newton Showdown As Saints-Panthers Collide

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graham-panthersNFL public relations (media relations) staffs from time to time send out emails bragging about the accomplishments of their players. I sent these messages out for several years when I was with the Saints. It was Billy Kilmer and Archie Manning then.

 Well, the Panthers (who'll be with us on Sunday) have a rookie quarterback named Cam Newton who is having a special year. He has already set the all-time rookie record for passing yards, with 3,893 and counting. And he has surpassed Peyton Manning's 3,739 yards in 1998 with 83 fewer attempts. One day, he'll be going after Drew Brees' records

Several weeks ago, Newton broke the all-time quarterback record for rushing touchdowns. He has 14. 

Those 14 rushing touchdowns put him only one score behind a three-way tie for second place in all-time rookie rushing touchdowns. Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis and Ickey Woods each scored 15. Eric Dickerson holds the record with 18.


Combining the 14 rushing touchdowns with 20 passing touchdowns, Newton has shattered the all-time mark for total touchdowns accounted for by a rookie, surpassing the 27 from Charlie Conerly of the Giants in 1948. Conerly was from Ole Miss and enjoyed visiting the French Quarter.


So while some continue to believe that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton should be named the offensive rookie of the year if his team qualifies for the postseason, Newton's historic first season should make the decision a no-brainer.


What motivates Newton?


My dad was a football player so I wanted to better than him. "I want to be the best." said Newton.

The NFL (No Fun League office played the Grinch to six Saints who showed too much Christmas cheer last Sunday. The NFL cracked down on several Saints for uniform violations: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter and Pierre Thomas were each fined $5,000 because the all wore red and green tape. Thomas was also fined $7,500 for unsportsmanship-like conduct for putting a bow on the football to celebrate a touchdown.

Saints coach Sean Payton said at his Friday media conference that running back Mark Ingram (turf toe) and wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) will not play on Sunday against the improving Panthers.

The coach said the possibility of Drew Brees' single-season passing yardage record will not be a consideration on how long Brees plays at his Friday news conference. "We'll be playing to win our 13th game. Our focus will be on playing our best game."

Opening Statement:

“Mark Ingram (right toe) did not practice; he’s out for this game.  Lance Moore (left hamstring) did not practice; he’s out for this game.  John Gilmore (right toe) did not practice; he’s out.  Malcolm Jenkins (neck) was limited; he’s questionable.  Jon Vilma (left knee) was limited; he’s questionable.  Patrick Robinson (right hip) was full; he’s probable.  Jon Casillas (right knee) was full; he’s probable.”

Do you think some of the guys you mentioned on the injury list might not be available for the playoffs?

“Each week, I think you just deal with it on a daily basis.  Yesterday I mentioned Mark (Ingram) kind of had a setback and we just treat and rehab it.  With Lance (Moore’s) hamstring, you do the same thing and you treat it day-by-day.  Same thing goes with John Gilmore.  It’s really just those three players that are listed out for this game.  I think the only thing you really can do is hit the rehab hard, pay attention to how they’re feeling and just recognize it’s really no different than if we were in week seven getting ready to head to week eight.  Obviously the importance of the playoff game is significant, and yet the player has to be healthy, so there aren’t any decisions really.  It’s just staying on top of the rehab and communication.”

Does a potential upcoming playoff game next week affect your decision on whether you play a player in this week’s game?

“I think it would have to be very simple: does he help the team in playing well enough to win a game?  If the answer is no, if it’s something that is potentially not full speed and it could hurt the team, then you can’t play them.  If the answer is yes, that would be a lot like week eight or week nine.  It happened last week where Lance (Moore) as recovering and it seemed like he was doing well and then on the third catch all of a sudden he pulled up and now you’re at 45 (players) on game day.  You’re always trying to gauge where that player is and is he healthy enough to help us.  If the answer is yes, then that’s one thing.  If it’s no, sometimes that’s a difficult decision.” 

Was there any thought to not put the scores of the 49ers-Rams game this weekend on the scoreboard in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

“Honestly there are so many thoughts that come ahead of that, but I understand the question.  I think we’re treating it like we would (any game).  This is a chance for us to win a 13th game, which has really been done once in this organization’s history.  We just got done talking at the end of practice, we feel like we’ve been playing good football and yet there are areas that we feel like we can improve on.  We feel like that could help us heading into the postseason.  We want to finish strong and we want to play well.  I think that is separate entirely from what happens with any of the other games.  It’s always this last week where there are a handful of scenarios.  I think maybe it’s a little clearer in the NFC because it really just comes down to one game with either the Giants or Cowboys winning, but other than that the field is set.  I think we’re going to really pay closer attention to how we’re doing rather than how anyone else is doing.” 

Is the NFL getting what they wanted in terms of fascinating finishes with playing divisional games later on in the year?

“Probably a little bit, and yet if our game wasn’t in the division it wouldn’t be any different.  In other words, they’re units -- the wins and losses.  Certainly you understand the goal was to try to create more meaningful games in late December and January and I understand that.” 

Does the possibility of Drew Brees’ single-season passing yardage record come into consideration at all with playing him?

“Not really.  There are a lot of statistical little things that could be achieved or not achieved in this game, but not really.  I think the focus is playing our best game against a team that we feel like is playing very well and is very hot and very difficult to defend.  They’re a team that’s gotten better and better certainly since we played them last, which seems like such a long time ago.  I think our focus is really on what we need to do to play our best football game and play these guys and finish the season on the right note.” 

Will there be any different routine the night before with it being New Year’s eve?

“For us, we’re so routine and schedule-oriented, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s, the challenges really become a little more difficult when you’re playing at home and have family and friends in.  We check into a hotel and have meetings and bed-check.  It’s much more structured.  The trick is the logistics of noise and traffic.  There’s a lot going on in the city and making sure players allow themselves enough time to get to the hotel and dealing with all the other distractions that can come up.  Internally, we’re on a pretty good and tight schedule.”

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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