Cam Newton has paired this season’s on-field work with some of the more tedious news conferences you’ll see all year.
Hearing from him on Wednesday made some sense, though, one day after the Panthers quarterback saw his top wideout in Kelvin Benjamin shipped to the Bills in a stunning trade.
“Yeah, um, I pretty much found out when y’all found out,” Newton told reporters. “But I don’t want to dwell on that. You know, obvious emotional connection, but that can’t be a distraction for our preparation this week.”
The Panthers (5-3) are scheduled to host the division-rival Falcons (4-3) on Sunday in a game that will feature a different-looking Carolina offense.
After swapping Benjamin for Buffalo’s third- and seventh-round picks in 2018, Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney explained the move was made to put more speed and versatility on the field.
Newton acknowledged the trade “changes much” about the offense, saying: “You can’t replace a Benji, just like you can’t replace a [Devin Funchess], you can’t replace a Greg Olsen, you can’t replace anybody else who’s on this team. You just have to roll with the punches and make do [with] it.”
Asked again about Benjamin, Newton told a scribe: “My intention for this meeting is not to dwell on Benji, it’s gone, it’s done, it’s over with. It’s time for us to move forward, however hard it may be, but we’ve got a football game still to play. I wish him the best.”
Asked (predictably) one more time about his now-missing wideout, Newton refused to say he was upset, simply uttering: “It’s a business. It is what it is.”
Coach Ron Rivera also dug in Wednesday on why stripping Benjamin from the equation could help Carolina’s struggling attack.
“We haven’t stretched the field this year and, I think, there are some things that compound some of the things we want to do as far as running the football. Not being able to stretch the field is part of the reason why we’ve seen so many eight-, nine-man boxes,” Rivera said. “I think [Russell Shepard] and Curtis [Samuel] and Kaelin [Clay] will get opportunities. Again, I’m not real concerned with who starts as much as who plays.”
It’s possible the Panthers viewed Benjamin and Funchess as similar badets — perhaps too similar. That said, it’s no sure bet that getting rid of a big-bodied, pbad-catching weapon will flip the switch on Carolina’s stuck-in-the-mud ground game.
It’s a trade that will be examined deeply in the coming weeks — from both sides — mainly because the team’s explanations for the move are far from a home run.