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‘Poor loser’ approach shows Newton has room to grow

Column as I see em:

There were times in the Super Bowl when I felt sorry for Cam Newton. The league MVP, who had carried himself with such unbridled joy all season, was reduced to a beaten, beleaguered character by the Denver defense. He didn’t get a lot of help from his offensive teammates, especially his receivers.

But I had no sympathy for Newton afterwards. Rather than conduct himself with grace in defeat, the man renowned for his glowing, infectious personality behaved like a sullen adolescent in postgame interviews.

Newton didn’t show up for his press session until well after many of his teammates were in there facing the music after the most difficult loss of their NFL lives. Newton, slumped and expressionless, sat for at least a minute before speaking.

After offering a few platitudes about the Broncos being better and scoring more points, Newton fielded six more questions in abrupt fashion:

A message to Panthers’ fans: “We’ll be back.”

What happened to his team: “They outplayed us.”

What coach Ron Rivera said afterwards: “He told us a lot of things.”

What Denver did defensively: “Nothing different.”

Could he put his disappointment into words: “We lost.”

Did Denver do anything to take away running lanes: “No.”

Then, after spending a little more than two minutes in the interview room, he got up and left.

OK, I don’t expect Socrates after the worst loss of his career. But Newton owed the world more. He’s become the young face of the NFL, an exuberant star who has drawn a lot of attention − some of it negative − for his elaborate and choreographed touchdown celebrations.

Fine. I thought Newton’s dabbing was good fun, a breath of fresh air in a league that takes itself too seriously at times. But he can’t have it both ways. He can’t be the most dynamic figure in the NFL, then act like a poor loser when things don’t go his way.

We’re always hearing how Newton engages with his fans, how he hands the football to kids when he scores. But young people are watching in the difficult moments, too. What does it say when Newton celebrates himself in victory while saying nothing gracious about his opponent in defeat?

Funny, there wasn’t a single use of “I” in his abbreviated postgame comments. How about a sliver of humility from the Panthers’ leader, an acknowledgement that he didn’t play well and was willing to take some of the blame?

• Before the Super Bowl, reports were flying that Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller was looking to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. After his MVP performance in the big game, that seems very likely.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Denver would use the franchise tag on Miller, then negotiate a long-term deal before training camp. The Broncos don’t want to lose him in unrestricted free agency after the 2016 season.

If Miller intends to be the richest defensive player in the league, he’ll want more than Miami tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed a six-year, $114 million deal last offseason, including $59.955 million in guarantees.

Miller will surely want to be the most handsomely paid linebacker in the NFL. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston signed a six-year, $101 million deal last offseason, with $52.5 million guaranteed.

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus signed a six-year, $96 million contract extension before the season, making him worth $108 million over seven years. That included $60 million in guaranteed money, a fraction more than Suh and the most ever in guarantees.

Dareus has never appeared in a playoff game and underachieved after signing his big deal. If Dareus is worth $108 million, I’m guessing the sky’s the limit for the Super Bowl MVP.

• It’s laughable how the Bills continue to express confidence in backup quarterback EJ Manuel. Rex Ryan said he still has faith in Manuel. Even former general manager Buddy Nix, the man who drafted him, reaffirmed his belief in EJ last week.

Nix said Manuel was forced into action as a rookie in 2013. He said the Bills “were going to draft him and let him sit behind Fitz or a veteran for a couple of years and learn the NFL game and grow into it.”

That’s some revisionist history. The Bills never intended to let Ryan Fitzpatrick start ahead of Manuel. Remember that illegally recorded conversation between Nix and then-Bucs GM Mark Dominik? Nix told Dominik that Fitz would probably be “fighting for a backup job” that season.

One reason Fitz left Buffalo was that he couldn’t compete for the starting job. The Bills brought in Kevin Kolb to compete with Manuel, but he hurt his knee in preseason and never played for the Bills.

We never found out if Kolb would have won the job. But the Bills were selling a shiny first-round quarterback that season. Despite what Nix contends, I felt they wanted Manuel to start as a rookie all along.

• Here’s the final line on the Broncos’ defensive effort in the AFC title game and Super Bowl, against the two most valuable quarterbacks in the league this year:

Tom Brady and Cam Newton combined to complete 45 of 97 passes (46.4 percent) for 575 yards, one touchdown pass and three interceptions. Denver sacked them a combined 10 times (Brady four, Newton six). Brady finished with a 56.4 quarterback rating. Newton, 55.4.

• You think with all the millions of dollars invested in hosting a Super Bowl, the NFL could manage to play the game on a field where a lot of players weren’t forced to change cleats because the playing surface was so slippery.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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