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.”

Don Ohlmeyer, longtime network TV executive, dies at 72

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Don Ohlmeyer, the “Monday Night Football” producer who came up with the phrase “Must See TV” in leading NBC to the No. 1 prime-time spot, died Sunday. He was 72.

“It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,” Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement. “Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.”

Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Peabody Awards.

Ohlmeyer became producer of “MNF” in 1972, teaming with director Chet Forte and the on-air crew of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. In 2000 in his second “MNF” stint, Ohlmeyer put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth.

Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a gofer while studying at Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on “Wide World of Sports.” Along with his “Monday Night Football” work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created “The Superstars.” Later at NBC Sports, he produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.

After running his own Ohlmeyer Communications Company, he returned to NBC in 1993 as president of its entertainment division. He came up with “Must See TV” in the 1990s, when NBC’s rating soared with such hits as “Seinfeld,” ”Friends,” ”ER” and “Frasier.”

Watch Live: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys on NBC

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The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in a battle of NFC East rivals on Sunday Night Football.

Despite going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year, the Cowboys lost twice to the Giants in 2016, including a loss in Week 1. Dallas hopes to not have a repeat of last year and will rely on sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Don’t be surprised if Elliott gets even more carries in this game because there is a possibility his six-game suspension is upheld and he will have plenty of time to rest up before he sees game action again.

The Giants will rely on their strong defense led by DB Landon Collins and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to try and get after Prescott and bottle up Elliott. On offense, New York is all about Eli Manning and the passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to suit up, but it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have after injuring his ankle in the preseason. As a result, look for new additions WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, to go along with sophomore WR Sterling Shepard to step up for Manning.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Giants vs. Cowboys

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app