Dukes: Don’t discount Newton’s leadership

A month ago, it wasn’t a certainty that Cam Newton would start in the Panthers’ season opener. He wasn’t exactly lighting the preseason on fire, completing just 42.1 percent of his passes.

Then the rookie QB went out and torched the Cardinals for 422 yards, which maybe we’ll never see him do again in his career. Go figure.

Beyond what happened on the field, NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes connected the dots to what he believes is an underrated aspect that Newton brings to the table: Leadership. It’s that leadership, Dukes believes, that has been Newton’s biggest impact on the Panthers and played a key part in convincing four-time Pro Bowl WR Steve Smith to stay in Carolina.

“He showed, to me, the best leadership by getting Steve Smith to stay,” Dukes said Wednesday on “No Huddle.” “Smith was checked out. Smith was ready to go. He wanted to go win somewhere. For (Newton) to be able to go in there and give Smith the confidence to stay … players rally and gravitate toward leaders. The unknown thing people aren’t talking about with Newton is he has great leadership skills.”

Don’t expect Newton to repeat his debut performance week in and week out. Realistically, he’s just getting started. But if he helps Smith and the rest of the Panthers’ veterans buy in, Newton already has gone a long way toward making it his team.

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