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Panthers’ Newton is a fan of Buccaneers’ Winston

October 3, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston reached out to a number of people for advice in the months before he was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, including Carolina’s Cam Newton.

The young quarterbacks followed similar paths to the NFL, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading their teams to national championships in college. Then they weathered scrutiny of personal issues off the field to launch pro careers with struggling NFC South franchises counting on them to lead quick turnarounds.

Winston makes his fourth pro start Sunday for the Bucs (1-2), facing the Newton-led, two-time defending division champion Panthers (3-0) who are looking to improve on their best start since 2003.

“I’ve talked to Cam numerous times. ... We’ve basically been through the same thing,” the Tampa Bay rookie said. “He’s definitely a great person to try and seek things to do to better myself.”

Newton, the top pick from the 2011 draft, was more than happy to take the 21-year-old’s calls.

“The thing he, and myself as well, had to learn was that it’s a long process,” Newton, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, said. “The thing that he had that I also had was that determination of success and winning, but knowing you’re coming into a league where you are going to the worst team. It’s a learning curve, and it’s a learning process.”

Newton went 6-10 as a rookie after joining a team that won two games the previous season. Carolina won a division title by his third year and is off to another promising start, despite injuries that have weakened the team on offense and defense.

Winston led the Bucs past New Orleans for his first NFL victory two weeks ago. He played relatively well last Sunday in a 19-9 loss to Houston that prevented Tampa Bay from climbing over .500 at any point in a season for the first time in nearly three years.

“There are some things that we talked about that are more personal than anything. I wish him the best, and will always wish him the best. I’m a fan of his work,” Newton said.

Winston said the most important thing he’s learned from Newton is “just be yourself.”

“He loves football,” the rookie said.

This is the second time in a month that Winston is facing a Heisman-winning quarterback. The Bucs lost to Marcus Mariota, the second pick in this year’s draft, in Week 1.

“For a player like Jameis, seeing the guy he’s going against on the other side, that has to get your blood flowing a little bit. You would look forward to that. I know he is,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “This is a big game for all of our team.”

Some things to know as Carolina tries to improve to 4-0 for the first time since winning five straight to begin the 2003 season, when it went to the Super Bowl:

ALLEN WATCH: The Panthers traded with Chicago this week to acquire four-time All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen after DE Charles Johnson (hamstring) went down. Allen, the NFL’s active sacks leader with 134, had just 5 1-2 last year after battling pneumonia and was shut out this year playing in Chicago’s 3-4 defense. He’s thrilled to back in a 4-3, in which he put up huge sack numbers in Kansas City and Minnesota. “That’s just where I feel comfortable. I understand the game with my hand on the ground. I feel like I can play faster, stronger. I have better leverage, I have better technique,” He said. “This is where my heart and my home is — in a 4-3 defense.”

THIRD-DOWN WOES: The Bucs were 1 for 12 on third-down conversions against the Texans last week. “Situational football wins and loses the game,” Winston said. “We have to have a better percentage there.”

NEWTON ON THE RUN: Cam Newton already has two rushing touchdowns, including a 13-yard jaunt last week against New Orleans on a bootleg. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton has 35 career TDs rushing, tied for sixth most in the modern NFL era with Steve Grogan and Randall Cunningham. Newton is quickly closing in on Steve Young’s record 43. It is conceivable Newton could reach that mark this season.

KUECHLY STILL M.I.A.: The Panthers may have to keep middle linebacker Luke Kuechly out another week, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea with the bye looming after Sunday’s game. Kuechly, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, has missed the last two games with a concussion, and remains in the league’s concussion protocol. A.J. Klein has done an admirable job for the Panthers, who have allowed the second-fewest points per game in the league, but it’s simply hard to replace a player like Kuechly.

HOME, NOT SO SWEET HOME: The Bucs have not won during the regular season at Raymond James Stadium since defeating Buffalo 27-6 on Dec. 8, 2013, a stretch of 10 home games. They are 0-9 under Smith.

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