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Christian McCaffrey opens up about his body, Cam Newton, becoming face of the Panthers

Through all the drawbacks the Carolina Panthers suffered since the start of 2019, from the 5-11 season and the firing of Ron Rivera to the retirement of Luke Kuechly and the release of Cam Newton, there was at least one bright spot.

Christian McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season and was rewarded by signing the richest running back contract in NFL history. Replicating that production will be tough, especially with a shortened offseason due to COVID-19. No other running back has achieved that feat more than once.

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But with a new coaching staff, which has talked about their excitement to coach McCaffrey, opportunities will be there. McCaffrey says it’s up to him to execute what the coaches ask of him.

“We’ve got a heck of a quarterback and obviously Coach (Joe) Brady,” McCaffrey told the Observer. “For me, it’s just I got trust in the coaches.”

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While this offseason was particularly unusual because of COVID-19, McCaffrey still made moves. In April, he signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension with the Panthers that will keep him with the team through at least the 2025 season.

McCaffrey also lined up an endorsement deal with BODYARMOR. He and seven other athletes across sports are investing in the sports drink company, joining the likes of James Harden and Mike Trout.

McCaffrey spoke one on one with the Observer about his new contract, Cam Newton’s move to the Patriots, Joe Brady’s offense, new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and becoming the face of the franchise.

This interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Jonathan Alexander: You were able to get your deal signed with the team in April keeping you through at least 2025. How important was that for you?

Christian McCaffrey: It was really important. I want to be a Panther for my whole career and being able to make that official and having the team and the front office and my teammates believe in me, and Mr. Tepper and Coach Rhule and Marty believe in me to that extent, meant a lot to me. I was just extremely grateful and happy when we got the deal done.

JA: In learning about Joe Brady’s offense, what did you like about it most?

CM: I love a lot about it. When you look at his past and his history of some of the people he’s been with, that’s exciting in itself. But after going through meetings with him over this offseason, you can tell … obviously he’s a talented play-caller. And he’s going to put his best athletes in a position to succeed.

But more than that I loved how passionate he was. I loved how hard he worked. He was very, very passionate about getting everybody on the same page, really hard on everyone making sure everyone was accountable. And to me that was exciting because if he takes his job that seriously that means we are going to be in a great spot.

JA: How similar or different will your role be in this offense than what it was last year?

CM: Well, I think we’ll find out. I think the beauty of it is we have so much talent on offense. We’ve got a heck of a quarterback and obviously Coach Brady. For me, it’s just that I have trust in the coaches. They are going to put everybody in a position to succeed, so it’s my job to go out there and execute whatever I’m asked to do.

JA: How good can this offense be?

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CM: I think we can be very, very good. I think sky’s the limit, it’s just a matter of executing. It’s a matter of preparing the correct way. Communicating, everybody being on the same page, and going out and executing. At the end of the day, if we do that, the talent is there, but that will get you so far. It’s doing all the extra stuff to go the extra mile.

JA: What are your thoughts on Teddy Bridgewater? What are your impressions?

CM: I love Teddy. I’m extremely excited to work with him. Obviously he’s had success in the past and what he did last year. But also just being able to get to know him this offseason, seeing the way he approaches the game, seeing the way he goes about his business, it’s exciting and I’m really excited to share the backfield with him.

JA: You’ve been transitioning to the face of the franchise over the last year, and now with Luke (Kuechly) and Cam (Newton) departing, you are that. Do you see yourself as that, and if so, what does that mean to you?

CM: It means a lot that anyone recognizes me as that. And while I believe I’m a leader on the team, it’s such a team game and it’s an honor to be one of the leaders on the team with so many. I’m excited to get to camp, get with the guys and get rolling. No matter who is on the poster, just to get with the guys. That’s my favorite thing about football, it’s such a team game and all 11 guys working toward one goal. That’s what I’m really excited about.

JA: From the outside looking in, it seemed you had a great relationship with Cam Newton. What will you miss most, and what are your thoughts on him finally signing with the Patriots?

CM: I’m excited for him. I think, in the NFL, it’s such a revolving door of a league. You make friends, they leave, you make friends and you leave, whatever it may be. You see guys come and go all the time so I’m excited for him because he’s got another opportunity to play and I know he’s going to make the most of it. Obviously I love Cam, he’s one of my best buds, so I’m appreciative that I got the time I did with him.

JA: A lot of people mention the low shelf life of running backs because the amount of hits they take. You’re someone who gets brought up because of your usage and being a dual threat running back. Does that concern you, and if so, what are you doing to maintain your body?

CM: I think when you look at the history of running backs and you look at guys like Emmitt Smith, who played 15 years, AP (Adrian Peterson), who is still playing, guys like Frank Gore. The list goes on and on of guys who have played 10-plus years in the league. For whatever reason, I don’t know why there’s been such a stigma of running backs having a short shelf-life, when there are so many that have played very long. There are a lot of receivers that have played four or five years. There are a lot of O-Lineman that played four or five years.

It makes sense because running backs take a lot of hits, so that’s why you have to go the extra mile. I think there’s so many things that go into it. What you do off the field, what kind of treatment you’re getting, all of the chiropractor work, the soft tissue work. A good segue, obviously. But what you put in your body, too. What you put in your body is your feel. That’s what’s going to drive you to succeed the most in your training and on Sundays. I take pride in what I put in my body, and BODYARMOR being one of those. I know that’s what we’re here for, but I take it very seriously. I’m very passionate about fueling my body with the right substances.

JA: Tell me about the partnership and why you were interested in doing it?

CM: Well, I was excited about it because, 1) I’ve been drinking BODYARMOR since I can remember. It’s my favorite sports drink, but it’s also, as I learned more about health, about fitness, fueling my body, it’s a better-for-you sports drink. There are not artificial sugars, it’s all natural ingredients, and for me, when I drink it, I feel a difference in my body, I feel a difference in my sleep. I wake up with more energy. During my workouts, I feel like I can go for longer. I base it off of results and it’s the drink that gave me the best results.

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JA: How did this partnership come together?

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CM: A lot of athletes have partnerships with sports drink companies and, obviously, I wanted one and I also wanted it to be something I believed in. I like doing deals with companies and products I’m passionate about that I believe in, that I actually enjoy because it’s very easy to talk about, it’s very easy to market it. It’s something I feel like I’m making happen better around the world. When a kid sees that Christian McCaffrey drinks BODYARMOR, I get excited because I know if that kid, if he does it as well, he’s going to have a slight advantage, and he or she is passionate about putting the right stuff in their body. So for me, we had contacted them, and they had contacted us around the same.

The Observer asked McCaffrey about playing football during the pandemic, and he began to answer the question before a spokesperson for BODYARMOR interrupted and said McCaffrey would skip that question.

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©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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