Concerns about Cam Newton's character have taken a back seat recently as draft experts debated how the former Auburn quarterback's physical skills would translate to the NFL.
Until this week.
Questions about Newton's leadership ability and troubled past were brought to the surface in a scathing analysis by Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki, who characterized him as a disingenuous, selfish athlete who will not command respect in an NFL locker room.
Nawrocki, a senior editor who did the scouting report for the publication's annual draft preview, wrote that Newton "has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first make-up."
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Newton "always knows where the cameras are and plays to them," Nawrocki continued. "(He) has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law - does not command respect from teammates and always will struggle to win a locker room."
Nawrocki, a former Illinois linebacker, offered many of the on-field criticisms that have been voiced elsewhere - that the 6-foot-5, 248-pound Newton played in a basic, run-first offense in his lone season at Auburn and lacks sound throwing mechanics.
But Nawrocki saved his most pointed comments for Newton's intangibles, writing he "is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example." Nawrocki projected Newton as a top-15 pick.
The Panthers, who hold the No.1 overall pick, have done extensive background work on the eight to 10 prospects they are targeting for the top spot. Newton is scheduled to visit the Panthers on April 5.
Panthers first-year coach Ron Rivera would not divulge what the team learned in checking up on Newton.
"That's something that we're going to keep in-house as we go through the process with these guys," Rivera said at last week's owners meetings in New Orleans. "Whatever we find out about the guys behind the scene really is a private matter."
Newton was found with a stolen laptop at Florida and left school amid allegations of academic fraud. After leading Blinn (Texas) Junior College to a national championship, he was embroiled in a pay-for-play controversy last fall at Auburn. The NCAA determined that Newton's father had orchestrated the scheme with Mississippi State without his son's knowledge.
Newton, who won the Heisman Trophy while leading Auburn to the national title, called the off-the-field issues part of his learning process.
"For me, that learning process happened three years ago," Newton said at the NFL scouting combine in February. "The mistakes that I made at Florida, the trials and tribulations that I went through at Blinn College, made me the person that I am today."