Newton to Oher: ‘I need you’ to play in Carolina

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Cam Newton discovered the Carolina Panthers planned to make a run at signing Michael Oher last offseason, he texted the free agent offensive tackle: “I need you. I don’t want you. I NEED you.”

Newton had sent text messages before to potential free agent prospects – but this time he was desperate.

The Panthers weren’t planning to re-sign struggling left tackle Byron Bell, and Newton needed someone to protect his blindside. He thought Oher, the main character in the popular movie by that name, would be a perfect fit.

The fifth-year quarterback turned out to be right.

Oher is having his best statistical season, and the Panthers (17-1) are the highest-scoring offense in the league and will play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“Yeah, it meant a lot,” Oher said emphatically Monday night. “I mean, it’s Cam Newton. You get a text from Cam Newton telling you that he needs you, well, you appreciate that. It’s definitely something that resonated with me.”

Turns out Newton had inside knowledge on Oher.

Newton’s younger brother Cecil, an offensive lineman, had been teammates with Oher with the Baltimore Ravens and raved to his brother about Oher’s work ethic and professionalism.

Newton bought in – and so did the Panthers.

Oher signed a two-year, $7 million contract with Carolina, a move that wasn’t particularly popular with Panthers fans considering he’d struggled in 2014 with the Tennessee Titans and been released one year into a three-year contract.

“I got killed on that one,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said.

But Oher has been solid.

In fact, he’s been more than solid, helping the Panthers finish second in the NFL in rushing and helping Newton achieve an MVP-type season with 45 combined touchdowns.

Oher played in 98.4 percent of the team’s snaps this season and allowed a career-low four sacks – tied for eighth-fewest in the league – and was penalized only three times for 25 yards, according to STATS.

Those numbers were a major improvement over his final two seasons in Baltimore, when he allowed a combined 21 1/2 sacks, and last season when he allowed six sacks in 11 starts with the Titans.

“He’s been a key asset to say the least,” Newton said.

Panthers center Ryan Kalil said Oher had the perfect personality to fit in on Carolina’s comedic offensive line.

He and his teammates regularly tease Oher about “The Blind Side” – a movie Oher doesn’t particularly like because he felt it portrayed him as a kid who doesn’t like football.

Panthers right tackle Mike Remmers is the first to text Oher to tell him when the movie is on TV – and it seems to be on all of the time.

Remmers also regularly recites lines from the movie, drawing a roll of the eyes from Oher.

“Michael Oher has a great personality and an incredible work ethic,” Kalil said. “You talk about trying to add talent to your football team, but you also want good character guys who will rub off on the younger guys and show guys what it means to be a pro – and Michael Oher is the epitome of that.”

Kalil’s said Oher’s work ethic is contagious.

“It’s the kind of guy you want on your team because it will motivate you to do the same,” Kalil said.

Oher will have his hands full in the Super Bowl though.

He’ll be matched up against All-Pro Von Miller and Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware at different points during the game.

Ware has faced Oher before, when he played for the Ravens, calling him a “great player who is very quick and athletic.”

For Oher, it’s another challenge on the road to rejuvenating his seven-year career.

Oher felt like he was “left for dead” last season when the Titans cut him. He couldn’t have imagined that a year later he would be playing for his second Super Bowl ring.

Newton reminded Oher of his text recently.

“He said `I told you I didn’t want you, I need you,'” Oher recalls with a laugh. “Stuff like that made me feel at home. Made me know they wanted me. Good feeling.”

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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