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Power Take: Newton’s freeze on fumble could have long-term effects

Don’t judge Cam Newton for his 2½ minutes of infamy at an interview table. Judge him for his half-second of infamy after fumbling the ball away late in the Carolina Panthers’ Super Bowl loss to Denver. That’s how I’ll remember this game: a MVP QB clamming up after feeling Wade Phillips’ wrath for four quarters, a MVP QB who tapped out.

Each replay is more damning than the last. On third down with four-plus minutes to go, the ball is jarred loose, sits on the turf for an eternity, Newton stares it down and then … he makes a business decision. Newton freezes up and takes a hop step backward rather than throw his 250-pound frame into harm’s way.

You know, with the Super Bowl on the line. At a defining moment, every player but one on his team poured their souls into, Newton quit.

Recover that ball, punt and surely a Peyton Manning running on “E” would have given the ball right back to Newton with another chance to win. Instead, the Panthers lost and Newton offered a weak explanation one day later, saying his leg could’ve been contorted. Whatever. This lackadaisical effort at such a critical point of the game will do more damage in the locker room than any exit from a postgame interview.