CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers receiver Steve Smith says he" lit into" Cam Newton about his actions on the sideline when the young quarterback was replaced late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's 36-7 blowout loss to the New York Giants.
Smith said he was upset when Newton sat sulking on the bench instead of getting up to watch backup Derek Anderson and trying to learn from his own mistakes.
As a team captain and the elder statesman of the team, Smith felt something needed to be said to the 23-year old Newton about the importance of remaining positive and better handling adversity.
"I don't want to be passive and not do it because if I don't do it, who will?" Smith said. "The same way with my son, I can't expect somebody else (to do that). So yeah, I lit into him because I thought it was an opportunity for him to see and understand what was going on. This is more than about playing football. It's about becoming a man and understanding what this is."
Newton declined comment through the team's public relations staff. The team said he isn't speaking until next Wednesday.
Players have the weekend off.
Coach Ron Rivera lifted Newton in the fourth quarter against the Giants after his third interception with Carolina trailing by 26 points. Rivera said he took out Newton because the game was out of hand.
After Newton was replaced by Anderson, Smith spoke to Newton on the bench because he felt he was sulking over the impending loss.
"I said, `Get up and learn from this,'" Smith said. "I watched DA (Anderson) and Jimmy (Clausen) observe from the sidelines the last 20-something games and try to get mental reps. This is an opportunity for you to get some mental reps. Don't just sit on the bench and sulk. I know you feel bad, but that isn't going to help us."
It's the second straight year teammates have questioned Newton's demeanor on the sideline.
Last year offensive linemen Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross both spoke to Newton in private about the importance of not getting down during a game.
"It's about not missing an opportunity to give him some advice that maybe I didn't listen to (when I was young) or maybe nobody told me," said the 32-year-old Smith.
Smith said former Panthers wide receiver Ricky Proehl "did it to me a few times and maybe he was more subtle than I was. But you know what, if I sit back and say, `Oh look at Cam over there sulking,' or `look at this, or look at that' that's not going to do anything. I told him this is an opportunity for you to learn from this."
Rivera said he'll probably have a talk with Newton but wouldn't discuss what the conversation will be about.
Rivera knows Newton is an emotional player and said there's a "fine line" to walk between maintaining his burning desire to win and keeping his emotions in check.
"You look at things like, well, if something positive happens do you want to hide the emotions? And if something negative happens do we want to hide the emotions?" Rivera said.
Gross, a longtime teammate of Smith's at Utah and with the Panthers, said he doesn't have a problem with Newton's demeanor. And he didn't think anything needed to be said about Newton outside of the locker room.
"Cam wears his heart on his sleeve and you know how he's feeling based on his actions," Gross said. "He wants to win as much as anybody, and when we don't he takes it to heart. I would like any of my teammates, if they're upset about things, to talk it out with us in the locker room, and know that we're all in it together."
Smith knows he might take some criticism for calling out Newton, but doesn't care. Smith said he hopes the lesson will pay off for Newton down the road when he's retired and the quarterback is setting NFL records.
"If this is something wrong for saying that, well, I'd rather be wrong and one day during his long career he goes, `Ah, I hated to hear that, but maybe that's what Smitty was talking about,'" Smith said.