Aikman: Experience can be 'overrated' going into Super Bowl
NEW YORK - If Cam Newton has the type of Super Bowl debut Troy Aikman did, the Carolina Panthers will be in good shape for the Super Bowl.
Newton will be making his first appearance in the Super Bowl next month against Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is playing in the big game for the fourth time.
"I feel that experience is often times overrated because of my own experience," said Aikman, who 22 of 30 for 273 yards and four touchdown passes as the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 27 when the Dallas Cowboys routed the Buffalo Bills 52-17.
"The year we went to our first Super Bowl in 1992 we were the youngest team in football. We played in the Super Bowl against a team that had a wealth of playoff experience and Super Bowl experience, and we dominated that football game."
Aikman, a Hall of Famer, said Newton has also shown he can handle pressure during his career.
"I just think Cam Newton is a guy who doesn't get overwhelmed by the moment," he said. "He seems to thrive in the spotlight. I don't think this stage will impact him in a negative way."
Coming off a dominating win over Arizona in the NFC championship game, Carolina enters the Feb. 7 game in Santa Clara, California, as a favorite.
However, Aikman, who won all three Super Bowls he played in, thinks Denver shouldn't be overlooked, especially with Manning making possibly the final start of his career.
"Denver's a great story, Peyton Manning's a great story," he said. "Denver is really good defensively and that's certainly going to be a key.
"I think he's (Manning) going to be the sentimental pick in what will likely be his last game, but it's going to a tough, tough task against this Carolina team."
Aikman, who dealt with concussions in his playing career and retired after the 2000 season, said he sees a big change in how the league handles the issue now.
"Back when I was playing, there was none of those things (protocols) in place," he said. "If someone suffered a concussion, it was unlikely they would ever miss a game, and now we're seeing players miss multiple games because they haven't shown signs that they're capable or ready to come back."
And he said despite the league's improved handling of the issue, hard hits are not going away any time soon.
"As long as we're wearing helmets and shoulder pads, there's collisions between these big, physical, fast guys, head injuries are going to be a part of it.
"As far as the play on the field, "Aikman added, "the rules that have been implemented, it seems the league has done just about as much as it possibly can do, short of just taking the pads off and saying 'we're no longer playing contact football.'"
Aikman is on a tour to raise awareness of melanoma through the "Melanoma Just Got Personal" initiative, which was developed to help patients and supporters understand advanced melanoma.
About 73,000 people in the United States are newly diagnosed with melanoma annually, but if the disease becomes advanced (known as unresectable or metastatic melanoma), it's difficult to treat and can be fatal. Only about 20 percent of people will survive for at least five years following a diagnosis of late-stage disease.
Aikman said he noticed a spot on his left shoulder in 1998, went to a dermatologist and was diagnosed with stage II melanoma a week later.
He said at that time he didn't know much about it, but got educated about it pretty quickly.
"Once it gets beyond the early stage, like when I caught mine, it's tough," he said.