Notebook: Cam Newton admits 'mistakes,' backs off 'icon' statement
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Give Cam Newton this much: the man has star power.
A mob of reporters attended the Saturday podium session in which the Auburn quarterback owned up to mistakes in his past, revealed NFL teams have asked him about his father's involvement in his career and made an opening statement aimed at quelling the stir created by recent remarks that he views himself as "an entertainer and icon."
"First and foremost, I understand that my obligation is to be the best possible football player that I can be," Newton said. "I know and believe that."
A first-round lock and a candidate to be the No. 1 overall draft pick, Newton made the outlandish remark while announcing an endorsement with Under Armour athletic gear. He said on Saturday his words were "somewhat misunderstood" but "partly my mistake of not making myself clear."
There were no such errors during Saturday's roughly 13-minute session, in which Newton came across as polished, forthright and engaging. He talked about the NCAA investigation into allegations his father arranged a pay-for-play college commitment scheme and "the mistakes that I made at Florida," politely declining only to answer one follow-up about whether Newton stole a laptop and from a teammate's locker.
He also made an apparent attempt to distinguish himself from the other top quarterback prospect, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, who won't throw here on Sunday.
"I wanted to come out here and compete, because that's what I feel like I wanted to do -- have fun competing," Newton said.
Newton said he's been working "day and night" with his private quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, to prepare for the drops, reads and throws he'll need to make in the NFL after playing in a shotgun-heavy spread scheme in college.
"Obviously, he's a terrific talent," New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "The offense he played at Auburn is completely different from what we play in the National Football League. But his skill-set -- he has a superior skill-set. I don't think people will pass up on the talent. Everybody should want to take a chance on talent like that."
Whether Newton can perform as well in interviews with teams here will play a significant role in where he ends up landing in April. Teams have questions not only about Newton's ability to run a pro-style offense, but his persona, discipline and support staff as well.
Citing a source, ESPN reported one NFL team "cracked the poise" of Newton by asking why he disobeyed orders by running a quarterback sneak late in January's national championship victory over Oregon.
"One guy had mentioned it in a meeting, he said the NFL doesn't owe anybody nothing," Newton said. "With Cam Newton or without, the NFL will be. And I'm just honored to have this opportunity to be going into the NFL."
Long-term deal for Rice?
Multiple reports on Saturday indicated the Vikings are working toward re-signing receiver Sidney Rice to a multiyear contract. However, it remained unclear whether the Vikings formally had made anything more than a one-year tender offer.
According to NFL sources, the Vikings continued to meet on Saturday with agents for some of the 20 unsigned players -- including Rice's agent, Drew Rosenhaus -- who finished last season on the active roster or injured reserve.
Negotiations are proceeding in an uncertain environment, because it's unclear whether four-year veterans (such as Rice) or five-year veterans will be eligible for unrestricted free agency under the next collective-bargaining agreement. But if a lockout begins as expected late Thursday, all contract talks will be put on hold.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made clear on Friday it's a "high, high priority" for the Vikings to re-sign Rice, a Pro Bowl selection in 2009 who missed 10 games last season because of hip surgery and a concussion. The hip reportedly continues to bother Rice, but Frazier said the team is not concerned.
Frazier left the combine on Saturday to attend the funeral of his friend and former Chicago Bears teammate Dave Duerson, who committed suicide last week in Miami.
Duerson left a phone message for Frazier "a couple of weeks ago," the Vikings' coach revealed on Friday, and expressed an interest in coaching.
"I tried to call him back and I missed him and it haunts me knowing what has happened now that we didn't connect," said Frazier, who hadn't seen Duerson in about a year.
"We were good friends, good teammates and it's still -- it's troubling that he's not here."