Seahawks players said they were surprised by the fact that Cam Newton wasn't on the field for the first play of the game, and then even more surprised to find out the reason afterward.
All the Seahawks knew at first was that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t out there for the first play of Sunday’s game, replaced instead by backup Derek Anderson, who threw a pass that went off the hands of fullback Mike Tolbert and was intercepted by Seattle linebacker Mike Morgan.
“I was surprised,’’ said Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett. “I didn’t know why he didn’t start. Maybe he was late to a meeting or something.’’
Then a reporter told Bennett the real reason — Newton didn’t wear a tie during the team’s trip to Seattle from the Bay Area on Saturday (the Panthers had stayed there to practice last week after playing Oakland last Sunday).
“Are you serious?’’ asked Bennett. “Wow.’’
Seahawks teammate Cliff Avril was no less incredulous.
“I guess if you’re going to make an example, make an example out of your starting quarterback,’’ Avril said. “That’s weird.”
Asked if he’d ever seen something like that before, Avril said no.
“I’ve never heard of a coach sitting you down for a dress code,’’ Avril said. “That’s a little too strict I think, but that’s not my coach.”
Carolina coach Ron Rivera confirmed after the game the report of the dress code violation, though he didn’t specify that it was for lack of a tie.
“Yea, it was a travel code violation,” Rivera said. “The decision was to treat him like I do all the other players and he didn’t start.” Rivera said it was “my decision. Completely my decision. The decision was made because I treat them all the same.”
Newton said he had no issues with the move, confirming that it was for lack of a tie.
“It came down to a dress code matter,” Newton said. “I didn’t follow dress code, and coach told me that I wasn’t going to start, so I stand by his decision. The position that he’s in, I’ll follow it.”
Asked if he had a tie, Newton said: “Well, when (you’re) 6-5, trying to get a shirt. I was away from home for a week. I didn’t pack a shirt. It was a lot of ties that I was given, but I can’t wear a tie with this (a black turtleneck), meaning, I have a tank top on. . . . We discussed it internally, me and coach, we got on the same page. I feel I wore a similar outfit as this before and nothing was done. But he said he has rules in place and we have to abide by them, and no person is greater than the next person and, you know, it is what it is.”
Asked if he thought Rivera was trying to send him a message, Newton said: “I don’t know. Long story short, he has rules in place. In my opinion, it was a lack of communication, like I said, on my part, especially as a team captain, a person that I feel has his ear. I should have just cleared it first. By the time everything happened, it was just, I was off guard. Minutes prior to the bus leaving, I didn’t have nothing to change into to, as well as me and my size.
“There’s other people on the team. A person may be thinking, ‘Why didn’t you get somebody’s shirt on the team?’ We’d been in California for a week, and we shipped our clothes off. So that was the big no-no. But, we didn’t lose this game because of a tie, you know what I’m saying? It was a lot of execution errors, it was a lot of things that we had our opportunities, and we failed at it. As a team, we’re going to keep putting ourselves in this position if we don’t maximize the opportunities that we do get in the game.”