NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Injured NFL quarterbacks typically do what they can to stay involved. They talk of taking “mental reps,” listen in on play calls, watch snaps unfold, converse with their replacement, chat with their coordinator.

In my time watching such practice scenarios I’ve always seem them try to do that.IMG 1412

The quarterbacks I’ve covered include Jeff Hostetler, Vince Evans, Chris Chandler, Steve McNair, Neil O’Donnell, Billy Volek, Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, Andrew Luck, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, T.J. Yates, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel, Alex Tanney.

I can’t remember an injured one at a camp practice who wandered around or did his own thing when he wasn’t the man under center as opposed to working to watch what was unfolding. Hurt guys were inside getting treatment or with the offense.

So I was fascinated to see how Carolina’s Cam Newton, who’s recovering from a shoulder injury, carried himself Thursday during a joint practice with the Titans.

He worked with his fellow QBs in the Panthers’ individual period, threw in one-on-ones and took some of the 7-on-7 work.

But he hardly plugged into the stuff he was uninvolved in and I’m told by those familiar with him that it fits with his routine in such circumstances.

He paid more attention to fans during a training camp practice than any player I have ever seen. That was great fun for the people in the bleachers, but it didn’t do much for the team. Fans call out to players all the time at camp practices. Periodically they get a wave or a one-liner. But guys know the more feedback they give the more the fans want, and that coaches are not generally happy to see them turn their back on the guys who are taking the next snap to participate in conversations.

Newton repeatedly acknowledged those calling to him from the bleachers in a big way – telling one who offered him ice for his shoulder something about a return face full of ice, asking for fresh material and later leading a discussion of dump dirt. (I have no idea either.)

This was during a special teams period:

During team stuff, he did a little side work. But for at least one good stretch when he wasn’t working, he was walking around, not even glancing toward where the Panthers’ offense was working.

On this season of Hard Knocks, I’ve seen Jameis Winston find a nice balance of fan interaction and practice work.

Marcus Mariota is a totally different personality than Newton, and during OTAs and minicamp when he was held out of practice while finishing recovery from a broken fibula he was super-focused on the offense while Cassel or Tanney ran things. 

Newton was not interested in the same level on Thursday. At all. Maybe being unconventional in that way benefits him and his team somehow.

I’m not sure how that would be.

Some of you are likely to crush me for these observations, so let's recap quickly: I was surprised as I watched him. I thought he paid too much attention to outside stuff and appeared disinterested in his team while it worked. 

But he's led his team to a Super Bowl. His teammates love him. His coaches are clearly OK with how he operates.

I'm not sure why.

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