Newton brushes off MVP talk

He may have guided the Panthers to a 14-0 record but Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is not real keen all of this most valuable player chatter.

Newton, who played at Westlake High and Auburn, is set to face the Falcons (7-7) on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

For his stellar play this season, Newton, in his fifth season, is being mentioned as the top candidate for the league’s annual MVP award over New England’s legendary Tom Brady.

“It’s irrelevant,” Newton said.

Although he apparently doesn’t mind bringing attention to himself after he score touchdowns with his long and sometimes zany celebration dances, Newton doesn’t like to participate in MVP talk.

“This is a production league,” Newton said. “I really am ignoring the fact that there is MVP talk for the mere fact that this is a team sport. I need everyone to be focused.

“For me to be selfish and start to dwell on what could possibly happen, that would be a step back for our team. But for us, this league is all about production.”

Even though the Panthers pummeled the Falcons, 38-0, in Charlotte on Dec. 13, Newton has found an edge to motivate him for Sunday. The Panthers are still in the hunt for the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

So don’t expect any easing up on the Falcons, who beat Jacksonville in their last outing to stop a six-game losing streak.

Before the Falcons’ last game in Charlotte was over, the Panthers had already begun partying. They posed for group pictures and were sporting hats on the sidelines. Newton ran 100 yards along the stands slapping hands with fans.

He defends the Panthers’ penchant for celebrating, even if some believe they are excessive.

“I think you should be able to celebrate in any way, shape, form or fashion,” Newton said. “I don’t think it gets noticed enough how our preparation goes into each and every week. You have players that are leaving to come to work from anywhere from 6:30 a.m. to even 5 a.m. I can speak for numerous players that don’t get off until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. That’s well over 12 to 14 hours a day.”

Given the work that goes into a season and how well things are going for his team, Newton believes you can party your socks off.

“Everybody in life celebrates things, from whether if it’s marriage, birthday parties or even events for getting raises,” Newton said. “For us, in the transition to football, when we score, it’s hard to score in this league. … It’s kind of exciting to get to that point.

“Yeah, there’s been a lot said about how we celebrate, but we are having fun. We are not doing anything that another person wouldn’t do if they were in our position.”

When he was drafted, some viewed Newton as just a running quarterback in Auburn’s system who wouldn’t develop as a passer in the NFL.

“If I had a list of the people who said I wasn’t going to be where I am today, it would be longer than I-85,” Newton said.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera saw something special in him.

“I don’t think that enough people really truly studied Cam coming out of Auburn like we did,” Rivera said. “One of the things that (former general manager) Marty Hurney, myself, Mike Shula and Rob Chudzinski did was that we studied him. We really looked at his throws.”

Newton impressed the Panthers’ brain trust with one laser shot from the left hash mark to outside the numbers on the right side that traveled 60 yards in the air.

“We (thought) this guy has a great chance to be a super player,” Rivera said. “We’ve been very fortunate and very lucky. He’s done nothing but develop and learn. He’s worked very hard at his craft. He’s still learning and growing. That’s the best thing.”