January 23, 2012
Carolina Panthers’ rookie quarterback Cam Newton has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster and will play in the NFL’s all-star game on Sunday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii (NBC, 7 p.m. ET).
Newton replaces quarterback Eli Manning, who will play in Super Bowl XLVI for the New York Giants against the New England Patriots on Feb. 5.
“It’s obviously a tribute to him and says a lot about his work ethic and his approach to the game,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said during a telephone interview from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. But “it’s not just one person, and Cam will certainly tell you that. A lot of people contributed to him reaching that goal. In this game, you are only as good as the people around you.”
Newton joins Panthers center Ryan Kalil and wide receiver Steve Smith on the NFC squad, both of whom were voted to the Pro Bowl in December. Smith is the only other rookie in team history to play in the Pro Bowl, accomplishing that feat in 2001.
The No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, Newton set an NFL rookie record with 4,051 passing yards, and his 21 touchdown passes are the third-most among rookies all time. He rushed for 706 yards and broke Steve Grogan’s 35-year-old NFL record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback with 14. Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history – rookie or otherwise – to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in a season.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera had pushed for Newton to be one of the three NFC quarterbacks selected to the Pro Bowl, but the rookie was beaten out by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Manning. Newton was selected as the first alternate ahead of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and San Francisco’s Alex Smith.
Still, Rivera felt Newton was deserving of the honor.
“He set a standard, a very high standard for any rookie quarterback coming in, and he wants to improve,” Rivera said. “He’s gotten better in so many different areas. His basic fundamentals just continue to get better and better. Mentally, he’s getting the grasp of this offense. He’s understanding defenses better and better. You’re starting to see leadership come out of him. He’s really taken his game to next level, and there’s so much room for him to grow. He’s got such a high ceiling.”
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