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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


NFL Roundup: Newton isn’t inked, Harbaugh’s race team

Tattoos won’t be the issue for Panther’s owner and new quarterback

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers owner Jerry Richardson appeared on Charlie Rose’s excellent talk show this week, discussing a number of topics from the end of the NFL lockout to whether Charlotte is ready for a Super Bowl (not yet because it doesn’t have enough hotel rooms, he said).

What has attracted the most notice, however, was Richardson retelling the story of how he had a conversation with No.1 draft pick, Cam Newton, before the draft. He told Newton then he liked the fact that Newton had no piercings or tattoos and basically that he hoped Newton would keep that clean look.

My colleague Tom Sorensen wrote about this very conversation three months ago in a column, but that one didn’t go national. This time it did, with the help of Rose’s show and also the influential sports website, in which Mike Florio called Richardson’s words to Newton “troubling” and “heavy-handed.” Of course, Richardson has employed the heavily tattooed Steve Smith for years as one of the team’s best players.

His team signed the even more heavily tattooed Jeremy Shockey in the offseason. I’d venture a guess that well over half the Panthers players have ink on their bodies somewhere.

Not Newton, though.

And Richardson likes that. OK, so what? If Newton gets a tattoo or comes back next offseason with both ears pierced, do you think Richardson is going to fire him? Of course not.

Newton’s performance will be graded on the field, as it should be. It’s Richardson’s right to like the “clean” look. It is also Newton’s right to do whatever he wants to with his body, as long as it’s legal.

I don’t find Richardson’s actions out of bounds here. He simply expressed an opinion to Newton, the same one that I will probably express to any of my four children the first time one of them asks to get some sort of tattoo or piercing.

I won’t like it and I won’t pay for it, and I would tell them that. But if they are 18 or older, it’s their body, and I’m not going to disown them for it. Newton can ink himself up like Dennis Rodman and still be beloved if he can get the Panthers to the playoffs. Or he can do everything exactly right off the field during his rookie year, go 1-9 as a starter and be constantly derided by fans (that previous sentence describes Jimmy Clausen).

Bottom line: The NFL is about winning, not about ink. The far more notable story about the Panthers Wednesday concerned linebacker Jon Beason’s sudden surgery for Achilles tendinitis.

That could definitely be “troubling.” This isn’t.

Harbaugh’s other team at Infineon

There’s a reason Panther Racing’s car number is 4. That was the uniform number of Jim Harbaugh, one of the team’s founding owners, throughout most of his NFL career.

Harbaugh is still part of the IndyCar Series team’s ownership group, but he has been a little preoccupied lately as the 49ers’ new head coach. In fact, he won’t be able to attend Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. (He’ll be busy dissecting game film from Saturday’s exhibition game against Houston.)

So first-year driver JR Hildebrand came down to the 49ers’ training facility Wednesday to be introduced to one of his bosses.

“Glad to finally meet you,” Harbaugh told him as they shook hands. “How’s the knee?” Hildebrand recently tore a left knee ligament.

“It’s cool to meet him on his turf,” Hildebrand said later. “I’m new to the team, and with his transition from Stanford to the Niners, we just haven’t made contact. So I hadn’t gotten the pep talk yet.”

Harbaugh caught the racing bug while playing for the Indianapolis Colts and joined the race team when it was formed in 1997. Harbaugh was a regular presence around the team’s Indianapolis garage and sometimes even worked with the pit crew on race days.

“But once he got into coaching, we haven’t seen as much of him because he’s so busy,” said Mike Kitchel, the team’s public relations director.

Harbaugh has described the Indianapolis 500 as “better than Christmas.” But he was absent from this year’s race and missed seeing Hildebrand come within a last-turn crash of winning the famous event.

“I know he must be working hard to get this team ready,” Kitchel added of the 49ers, “because Jim is in love with the Indy 500.”

Muhammad knows spotlight Williams is under

CHICAGO — Muhsin Muhammad has walked in Roy Williams’ cleats, with shoulder pads on. He knows what it’s like to sign with the Bears and be the man on whom hopes for a revitalized passing game ride.
Muhammad was that guy for three seasons and none of those matched the 923 yards and five touchdowns he had upon returning to the Panthers as a 35-year-old in 2008.

“Maybe it’s play-calling, maybe it’s selection or whatever the case may be, but the predominant philosophy in Chicago has always been running the ball,” Muhammad said. “It’s a defensive town. It’s not an offensive mentality type of town. That team has historically been built around the defense.

“I like Lovie (Smith), I like Mike Martz. … You saw what he did in St. Louis and then (he did) something similar in Detroit.”
Muhammad noted the rest of the NFC North has excelled passing, particularly the Packers. In an arms race, the Bears haven’t kept pace.

“It’s very, very difficult to have great production at wide receiver if there’s not great production at quarterback, Muhammad said. They go hand-in-hand.”

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