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Panthers Pack Up Locker Room, Address Cam Newton's Critics

Michael Tomsic
The Carolina Panthers pack up their locker room after the 2015 season.

The Carolina Panthers packed up their locker room Tuesday after a disappointing end to the franchise’s best season. As they did, quarterback Cam Newton addressed his critics.

Since the Super Bowl, there’s been a sports media frenzy about Newton walking out of his postgame press conference quickly after giving a few terse answers. (Here’s one example from ESPN.)

For his part, Newton says it’s been blown out of proportion.

"When you invest so much time, when you sacrifice so much and things don't go as planned, I think emotions take over," he says. "I think that's what happens. I heard numerous quotes about what if this person was in that situation, how would he have handled it? I'm not that guy. If you want me be this type of person, I'm not that. And I'm happy to say that. I am my own person."

His teammates and coaches defend him. Coach Ron Rivera says he wishes Newton would’ve handled it differently, but the criticism is unfair.

"He hates to lose, that’s the bottom line," Rivera says. "And that’s what you love in him. I’d much rather have a guy that hates to lose than a guy that accepts it. The guy that accepts it, you might as well just push him out your locker room because you don’t want him around."

"He wants to win and his teammates know it," Rivera continued. "He’ll do anything he can to win. That’s what it’s about."

Some in the media also criticized Newton for not diving for a fumble late in the game. Newton addressed that, too.

"I see numerous quarterbacks throw interceptions, and their effort afterwards, they don't go," he says. "I don't dive on one fumble because the way my leg was, it could've been contorted in a way."

He said the fumble alone isn’t the reason the Panthers lost, at which point some teammates yelled their agreement. As Newton kept getting questions, the Panthers in the locker room started cheering and chanting for him.

Tight end Greg Olsen put it this way:

"The one thing I do know, is that if anybody ever wants to question how much Cam cares," Olsen says, "if anyone ever wants to question how hard he plays, the sacrifice he makes with his body, the sacrifice he makes with just the way he plays his position - not only are they uninformed, they've never probably watched us play a down since he's been in the league."

A clear theme throughout this season has been how tight-knit the team is. As the Panthers packed up their locker room, it showed.