SPARTANBURG — Less than 24 hours after Cam Newton signed his contract, the Panthers were selling his No. 1 jersey for $85, hung next to Jimmy Clausen’s No. 2 in the mobile team shop Saturday outside Gibbs Stadium.
The two young quarterbacks sit side-by-side in the meeting room and on the depth chart, as well.
But there was little question who the 2,500 fans sweating in 90-degree temperatures on Wofford’s campus came to see.
Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton wraps his arm around running back DeAngelo Williams as they walk to Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College to begin the team’s first training camp practice Saturday.
They gave Newton a warm reception as he walked on the field and pointed to fans gathered in the bleachers, as well as those seated on the hill.
Over the next two-plus hours, they cheered any time he completed a pass, and bit their tongues when he threw balls at the feet of his receivers.
“Everyone wants to get that first glimpse of thoroughbred Cam Newton. So here come the cameras,” Panthers linebacker Jon Beason said. “Hey, he’s No. 1 for a reason. That part of it will be exciting for our fans, I’m sure.”
Newton arrived to camp on time, which was one of his priorities when picking agents after he left Auburn. The Heisman Trophy winner already had missed OTAs and mincamps during the 4 1/2-month lockout.
“I didn’t believe in holding out. I wanted to get in and get as much time as I needed,” he said. “Enough time has already been taken away from us, so it’s very, very important for me to get into camp on time and get around my team and my coaches to start understanding the playbook.”
The rookie wage scale that was key piece of the new collective bargaining agreement made Newton’s negotiations straightforward. The downside for Newton: The $22 million in guaranteed money his first four years is less than half of what St. Louis gave No. 1 pick Sam Bradford a year ago.
“It really doesn’t matter. Any way you look at I still got more money than I ever had,” Newton said.
Newton would be due an estimated $14 million if the Panthers pick up his option in 2015.
“If you play the way you’re supposed to play and how everybody is predicting you to play, you will be all right,” Newton said. “You can’t look at the numbers scale. I know there was a big drop-off from this year to last year. I don’t worry about it.”
Newton has plenty else to think about: Learning an offense more complex than what he ran at Auburn, fitting in with his new teammates who might be skeptical after Newton’s “icon and entertainer” comment and dealing with the expectations of being the top pick.
Clausen has helped with the teaching part. The two spent the first two days after the lockout watching video and going over the playbook with quarterbacks coach Mike Shula and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Clausen was asked whether it was awkward working with the player most believe will take his job.
“Nah, it’s been good,” Clausen said. “We had the two-week, little OTA deal with the players, and that went really well. … The past two days have been good, just learning the new playbook with him. We’re getting along really well.”
But Clausen set a high price for the No. 2 jersey that Newton wanted, which Newton was not willing to meet. The same thing happened to Clausen his rookie year when he approached punter Jason Baker about getting No. 7, Clausen’s number at Notre Dame.
“I’m not bitter toward me having No. 1 and him having No. 2. He just had the number first,” said Newton, who did not disclose how much Clausen wanted for the number. “His offer that he put out, I felt like I would rather start out with another number.”
Clausen, who was 1-9 as a starter last year as a rookie, worked with the first-team offense Saturday night; Newton was with the second team. Newton struggled to hit receivers at times – misfiring on three consecutive throws during team drills.
But he also displayed the running ability that helped convince the Panthers to draft him No. 1, escaping the rush a couple times when the pocket collapsed.
New tight end Greg Olsen said Newton’s athleticism and charisma were evident even during a low-intensity workout Saturday morning.
“Granted, we didn’t do a whole lot. But you can get a pretty good feel fast for athletes and what they’re capable of,” Olsen said. “He just has that something about him. He’s got that confidence. He’s a great kid, just in that short time I’ve met him. Physically, it kind of goes without saying.”
Beason promised that Newton would not be excused from carrying veterans’ shoulder pads or performing the other rites of rookie passage.
Despite his stardom, GQ photo shoot and endorsement deals with Under Armour and GMC, Newton said he knows his place in the Panthers’ locker room.
“I don’t have this attitude that I’m above the law, because I have to understand that I have to pay homage and pay dues,” he said. “If that opportunity presents itself, hopefully it’s not that bad. I just have to bide my time and pay my dues.”