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National Football League
Cam Newton in Las Vegas

July 10, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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Two weekends ago, my brother Matt took a trip to Las Vegas with some friends of his from high school. One of his buddies is getting married soon, and the trip was a bit of a last hurrah for that particular group of guys. Matt had never been to Vegas before, but from all indications he had a blast during his time there.

They stayed at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (also known simply as Cosmo), a nearly brand new spot on the Vegas strip that opened late last year. I've been to Vegas once myself, in August 2003 (my long story about that trip is available here). It's a great city, a unique destination that I recommend that everyone visit at least once in their life. It's like nowhere else in the world.

Matt is a graduate of Mississippi State, and he wore a State cap during some of his time in Sin City. Early into his first day there, he texted me saying that he spotted Jerry Rice. Matt said Jerry spotted his cap and gave him a knowing nod; Jerry is a native of Mississippi. I have no way of verifying this information, but Matt is not one to lie.

Jerry Rice wasn't the last famous athlete that my brother spotted in Vegas. Later that day (6/24/2011), Matt spotted Cam Newton, the #1 overall pick of the Carolina Panthers in this past April's draft, with his brother Cecil Newton, Jr. (himself a professional football player who spent time in the Jacksonville Jaguars organization and was selected by the UFL's Hartford Colonials in the May 2011 UFL Draft). The two Newtons were in the vicinity of a craps table at the Cosmo.

Thanks to us living the era of cell phone cameras, Matt was able to snap a picture on Cam and Cecil Jr. near the craps table without anyone catching onto it. Soon after, Matt snapped another picture, this time of just Cam up near the table. Use of cameras in a casino area is generally frowned-up, and it's possible that the hotel management might have given him the business about it had they known. But Matt was able to take the photos surreptitiously and then send them out via Facebook and text message.

I've sat on that information for the past two weeks. I work in the information business with this website, and from time to time I find various bits of news and tips. It's not on a Bill Simmons level (where he accidentally tipped on Twitter that Randy Moss was about to be traded from the Patriots to the Vikings), but believe me when I tell you that I hear things from time to time that would be of interest to the general public. Sometimes I reveal them, but sometimes I don't.

After some deliberation, I initially decided not to run anything about Cam Newton being in Las Vegas. There wasn't any real story to it. Cam is 22 years old, so his presence in any age-restricted area didn't violate any law. Moreover, Matt told me that while Cam was in the casino, he never saw Cam doing any gambling.

Bottom line: Cam went to Las Vegas, as millions of people do every year. That's a non-story, right? He's not under contract anywhere or under obligation to be elsewhere, not with the NFL having locked out its players. In reality, the most embarrassing thing revealed in the photos are is the two-sizes-too-small tank top that Cecil, Jr. was wearing.

But then I saw this story today on Pro Football Talk, which is an absolute must-read website for NFL news and information. The article I linked to on there is about Cam Newton, and in the first paragraph I read this line: "[Cam's] been living in Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academies working on his game and not doing much else."

The PFT story consists of information that appears to have been mostly culled from this article on the website of the Charlotte Observer newspaper. The sub-headline in that article reads as follows: "However, his (Cam's) top focus is learning the game, a task that never ends."

I appreciate the fact that Cam Newton is working hard in Bradenton, FL, and I don't doubt that he has been working very hard in preparation for the 2011 NFL season. But the spin that it's been all work and no play is clearly inaccurate.

So, here for your enjoyment, it's Cam Newton and Cecil Newton, Jr. hanging out at the Cosmo in the first picture and another shot of Cam at the craps table in the second. Again, I need to reinforce that Matt never saw Cam actually playing craps. Moreover, I wish Cam the best and hope he has a great career with the Carolina Panthers; the pressure that Cam will face in that role is tremendous. I'm pulling for Cam to have a strong NFL career. But I cannot, and will not, let a puff piece PR story stand unchallenged when I have evidence to contradict it.

7/12/2011 11:30 a.m. CDT update: One of Matt's friends who went on the trip, Jonathan Jarrett, provided second-source confirmation on another Cam sighting that weekend that I wasn't comfortable running on here in the initial story. Matt had told me about Cam and Cecil Jr. riding mopeds down on the strip and that he had heckled Cam with some anti-Auburn comments -- he told me he believed they weren't wearing helmets but couldn't remember with total clarity. Here is what Jonathan told me on Facebook today:

Jonathan Jarrett: Cam definitely was not wearing a helmet on the moped. That's why when Matt yelled "Auburn Sucks!" he was able to hear it so clearly.

Take that as you will, but after Ben Roethlisberger's accident riding a motorcycle in Pennsylvania without a helmet you might think that any NFL QB or NFL QB-to-be would wear a helmet when on a motorized vehicle. But that would apparently be incorrect...

Cecil Newton, Jr. (in the black tank top) and Cam Newton (in the
powder blue "SPEED" shirt) enjoyed themselves at the Cosmo in
Las Vegas on June 24, 2011.

(Photo Copyright 2011 Matthew Pickney. Used with permission.)

Cam Newton is *not* under contract with the Carolina Panthers.

(Photo Copyright 2011 Matthew Pickney. Used with permission.)


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