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"He's going to have a ton of opportunities to play in the Pro Bowl," Payton said of Newton. "To be a rookie with no offseason and literally no minicamp and to report to training camp and do what he's done is amazing. ... He's a guy that I see in that game. Unfortunately he's also in our division."
Payton said he was impressed with Newton the first time he saw him in a uniform.
"I remember being out at midfield the last time we played and seeing his stature and size and arm strength," Payton said. "He's got that warm smile that's contagious to playing quarterback in this league and I think that (confidence) exudes over to his team."
When asked if he's exceeded his own expectations this year, Newton said, "I'm all about how team success plays out and our record is not where we want to be. My goal before this year was to make it to the playoffs. We had ample opportunities to make that happen and I think we dropped the ball on that."
Center Ryan Kalil, who will represent the Panthers at the Pro Bowl along with receiver Steve Smith, said he expects Newton will be making plenty of trips to Hawaii in the future.
"I think he has the respect of a lot of guys around the league and let's face it, there's nothing wrong with being a first alternate either, especially against the quarterbacks he has to compete against," Kalil said. "But he's had a heck of a season, especially as a rookie who didn't have an offseason that a guy normally would have because of the lockout."
Kalil said he's seen Newton mature as a leader both on and off the field.
"We can't be more excited about having him for the future," Kalil said.
Newton is excited, too.
"The one thing we have made a big stride in is creating that hope and a buzz in the community of Charlotte," Newton said. "You can see the fan support everywhere and to some degree we've succeeded in that level."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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