When it comes to damage control, give Cam Newton the edge over Ryan Mallett.
The two junior quarterbacks stepped to the podium today at the NFL Scouting Combine amid a flurry of character concerns. Mallett, the University of Arkansas quarterback, has been plagued by rumors of drug use - none of them substantiated - in recent weeks and was asked about those as soon as he settled in behind the microphone.
"Nah - I'm not going to talk about that right now," said Mallett, who was then peppered with similar questions for the next 15 minutes. One reporter noted that the questions wouldn't go away until Mallett addressed them, so why not address them now? "Because I don't want to," Mallett responded. "I'm not going to talk about it. I'll talk about it with the teams."
Newton, meanwhile, was surrounded by perhaps the biggest media contingent ever at a scouting combine. There have been a number of questions about the Auburn quarterback that range from alleged transgressions while he was at the University of Florida to an NCAA investigation into his father, Cecil's, pay-for-play demands before Newton went to Auburn.
The latest, however, stemmed from a phone interview he conducted earlier this week with Sports Illustrated's Peter King in which Newton said he saw himself "not only as a football player but as an entertainer and an icon." The statement reinforced the notion that Newton didn't have the necessary focus to be franchise NFL quarterback.
Surrounded by reporters, Newton began his interview with a statement, a first for the combine, according to long-time observers. "The recent comments were made during the announcement of my new endorsement partnership," he said. "I was making the point that I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I am lucky to play for."
Newton also said he learned from "mistakes" at Florida - he did not address specific allegations - and said his father was "just like any father who wants the best for his son." Newton sounded as if he had been well-coached by his handlers, but overall he came off well, certainly better than Mallett. Newton, of course, is a possibility to the 49ers, who have the No. 7 pick.
Speaking of the 49ers' pick, I thought North Carolina defensive end/linebacker Robert Quinn came off very well. Quinn was honest, forthcoming, contrite and just overall sincere - which is a rarity in the hyper-rehearsed combine. Quinn, who was suspended this past year, weighed in at 265 pounds. I'll have more on him later.
-- Matt Barrows