There were plenty of mitigating factors around Cam Newton last year that prevented him or the Panthers from repeating their 2015 success.
But as they move forward, they’re hoping having Newton in better shape is going to help the results in the future.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that even with the beating he took last year, Newton didn’t need any offseason surgeries. But he did say he’s working on a new strength and conditioning program in hopes of being in better shape next season. Newton was bothered by knee and ankle problems early and a shoulder issue late last year, among the assorted hits to the head he takes at a high rate.
“Probably the biggest thing, more so than anything else, was he just had to go to therapy,” Rivera said. “Stretching, strengthening, stuff like that. My understanding is that’s what he’s been doing in his hometown. Everything I’ve heard is he’s been great. He’s had a good offseason, he’s been working with some strength and conditioning people back home and I’m really anxious to see him come April 17.”
Newton’s apparently dropped some weight since the end of the season toward that goal, after playing in the 260-pound range last year. And if he’s closer to 245 this year, Rivera thinks he has a better chance of him holding up.
“I’d like to see him more flexible, especially through the shoulders because that seemed to be where he had a lot of his problems,” Rivera said. “Get that shoulder strength back up, get that shoulder flexibility back and continue to keep himself at a specific weight that he feels most comfortable at.”
Of course, Rivera has said all offseason he hopes to have Newton running less next year, as they “evolve” (and Rivera was still using that word Thursday) their offense around the former MVP.
“Oh yeah, without a doubt,” Rivera said when asked if he expected Newton to rebel against that idea. “I promise you that’s going to happen. He wants the football, but we have to be very dogged in terms of what we’re going to do with him and how we’re going to do it. We have to pick and choose. It’s got to be the right situation and circumstances.
“But you know him, he wants to succeed, he wants to do things that help this football team win and I believe he’s going to do the things he needs to do.”
And apparently, coming back next year a little lighter and more limber can’t hurt.