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Cam Newton says playing hurt last year 'probably wasn't the smartest thing'

Shalise Manza Young
Yahoo Sports Contributor

After an offseason that included watching Cam Newton rehab from January shoulder surgery, the Carolina Panthers are taking things slowly with their franchise quarterback.

Coach Ron Rivera said last week Newton’s reps would be closely monitored and scripted out around the installation of the offense.

That wasn’t exactly the case last season, when Newton was in pain and played anyway, knowing his team needed him.

‘It probably wasn’t the smartest thing’

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spent the offseason rehabbing from shoulder surgery. (AP)

NBC Sports’ Peter King traveled to Panthers’ camp over the weekend and among other things talked with Newton about last season.

After a Nov. 4 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Panthers were 6-2. Statistically, Newton was having his best season ever under new coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner (Norv’s son).

But as the weeks wore on, Newton’s discomfort intensified. And Carolina’s losses piled up.

Against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 17, Newton looked like a shell of himself. He said in a video blog around the time of his surgery that he couldn’t throw 30 yards, but with Carolina still in playoff contention, both he and Rivera believed even far from his best, Newton gave the Panthers the best chance to win.

Newton had his worst game of the season, the Panthers lost, and the quarterback was shut down for the now-meaningless final two games of the year.

“As a quarterback in this league, you’re unanimously the leader, right? We needed that game,” Newton said. “I felt as if I wanted to give my team everything that I had honestly.

“Being hurt, being injured … looking back at it, it probably wasn’t the smartest, efficient thing, knowing that I left it all out there on the field. And if you asked me if I’d do it again, I’d do it again. I just know my worth to this team—know how much these guys believe in me and how much I believe in them. If I’m willing to do that, and I know I’ve seen other guys do the same thing, too.”

New throwing motion

In large part because he’s now had two surgeries on his throwing shoulder, Newton and the Turners have been working to alter his throwing motion a bit.

It began last year, but has continued. The change has two benefits: it helps Newton be more precise, and it takes some of the pressure off his shoulder.

“People in football would notice, but maybe a fan wouldn’t,” Scott Turner said. “Cam historically had a throwing motion where it was very open, where he put a lot of stress on his shoulder. Now he’s worked to close it up, which relieves a lot of pressure on his arm. He can still throw with a lot of velocity. But he is getting used to a little bit of a new way. The shoulder, being a little more closed. If you stay closed, with the right weight transfer and upper body movement, your shoulder’s not going to be stressed as much.”

Newton said it’s still a work in progress.

“One thing about the shoulder and constant moving, constant muscle manipulation, constant trying to get your range of motion back: You can’t mimic real life reps. This [training camp] is actually the first time I’m actually throwing to moving targets, things like that,” he said. “Now it’s another phase. You gotta work on throwing the deep pass. You gotta work on throwing on opposite fields, something that you haven’t been doing for so long because you’re just trying to perfect the small kind of intimate, intermediate throws.”

Taking a different approach

King said Newton bristled at the idea that he wouldn’t be the same quarterback he’s been for the first eight years of his career.

But he acknowledged that he doesn’t have to be — with teammates like Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olson and D.J. Moore, Newton can be more selective on when he runs the ball or be Superman.

“It’s still speculation,” Newton said about how he’ll play post-surgery. “You know, at the end of the day, God has possessed me with things that I’m grateful for.

“Now, being older, you kind of look at things different. For me, it’s not that I’m limited with certain things, or that I’m not capable of doing certain things, it’s just other ways to do it. I’m not saying I’m not gonna run people over. I’m not saying I’m not gonna run the football. I’m not saying I’m not gonna throw the ball down the field. I’m just in a position now where none of that matters but one thing, and that’s winning football games. If it requires me to do all those things, I’m willing to do it. And if it doesn’t, I’m still fine with that.”

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