Rehabbing Newton believes rebuilt Panthers can be playoff contenders
JUN 11, 2014 8:45p ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton underwent surprise surgery in March on ligaments in his left ankle, the questions of when he would return and how healthy he'd be started immediately.
While it appears the ankle is healing just fine, we're no closer to knowing when he'll return to practice. It could be next week during the team's three-day minicamp, or in July when the Panthers report to training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
"Some days, I wake up and I'm like, 'OK, I'm 100 percent,'" Newton told the media in a press conference. "And as I's walking to work, I hit one stone and it twists the wrong way and you're always reminded -- humbly reminded -- oh my God, it hurts. There's always something that reminds you that you're still not 100 percent. ...
"For me, being the Carolina Panthers quarterback, it's my obligation to be 100 percent -- no limping, no gimping, no grimacing or nothing when it's time for me to be on that practice field."
Newton, who's entering his fourth NFL season, said the worst part isn't the pain from the surgery, but rather having to do the same routine over and over again -- on the field or in the film room.
"Physically, I'm coming along fine," Newton said. "I think I'm on pace to be right where I'm expected to be. Mentally, I'm bored. Watching film, going over those things, becomes monotonous.
"But I know it's making me better. I understand that, at the point, that I'm at in my career ... it's taking a smart look and sitting back and saying,'How can I become better than I was last year?'
"But six or seven weeks of the same thing, watching game film after game film, making the right corrections and helping those guys out at practice, you kind of feel, man, I wish I could be out there."
Other than game film, Newton also saw the big, six-year, $126 million contract that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently signed. Newton is entering the final year of his contract, meaning he's now allowed to negotiate a new deal.
Carolina has already exercised its option on Newton for 2015 and will pay him $14.67 million.
"I'm excited about what Colin Kaepernick has done because he's a friend of mine," Newton said. "Those circumstances are different for the 49ers than it is for the Panthers -- different management, different situations."
With Newton not able to do much other than throw on the sidelines from a stationary position, he's been unable to build any rapport with any of his wide receivers, all of which are new to the team.
The receiving corps has been widely criticized nationally, and even some locally, for appearing to be without a No. 1 receiver. Many have said they're just a bunch of also-rans.
"The elephant in the room has already been stated," Newton said. "Those guys have already accepted the challenge. You don't have to go in there and tell those guys, 'Hey, you're projected (to be) the sorriest receivers in the NFL.' We already know.
"But with that, those guys have that fire in their eyes. I would rather those guys be like that and for them to go out there and bust their tails like they've been doing. It's kind of like a slap in, not only in their face, but my face, as well.
"The things that have been said, the reports, who cares because at the end of the day, we will be ready to play football, and Carolina Panthers football," said Newton, who accounted for 3,379 yards passing and 30 total touchdowns in 2013. "Hard-nosed, and everybody's going to have to do their job."
Receiving equally as much negative attention, if not more, is the state of the offensive line, which has two major question marks at each tackle and right guard. At this point, it's anybody's guess who will be starting at those spots come Week 1.
Newton is just as confident that his offensive line will protect him and make holes for the running backs. He believes the receivers will get open and be productive, as well.
"Come game time, there's no doubt in my mind that every single person will be ready to go," Newton said. "That's what (Organized Team Activities are) meant for and that's what minicamp is designed for -- to get these guys prepared and get myself prepared so we can all be better.
Even with all the question marks on offense, Newton believes this team is earmarked for a great season -- like last season, when the Panthers went 12-4 and won the NFC South title.
"Everybody has an opportunity to do something great," he said. "How foolish it would be of us to let that opportunity slip through our hands without making the most of it."