Panthers pleased as Newton throws at practice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel was explaining what it meant to have Cam Newton throw publicly for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in January when the 2015 NFL MVP's voice almost drowned him out from about 30 yards away.

"You hear him?" Samuel said Tuesday as the Panthers began a three-day mandatory minicamp. "Everywhere you go, you hear Cam. That energy, it spreads on all of us. It's great having him out here all the time working.

"A lot of people don't trust in what he can do and think he fell off. That's not even an issue. He's going to come back way stronger and way better. And we're going to be out there to help him."

Newton threw five passes early during initial quarterback drills with receivers and came back with a handful more while special teams took center stage. None was longer than 15 yards and all were to stationary targets -- all a part of Newton's rehab from his second offseason shoulder surgery in three years.

Much of the focus was on Newton's mechanics, which were refined last year by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner to take some of the pressure off the right shoulder and improve efficiency.

Newton's spirals were nice and tight, just as they were during a 6-2 start last season before shoulder strength became an issue to the point that he couldn't throw deep passes and the team lost seven of its last eight games.

"If you go back and look at a lot of things that happened before he started having shoulder issues, you can see the improvement, you can see the footwork, you can see the whole development of him,'' coach Ron Rivera said.

"As the shoulder started to go, then you saw everything fall by the wayside. Now you get an opportunity to go back, rework those things, do the things he needs to do to improve. He's done a great job."

The Panthers have been optimistic about Newton being ready for the 2019 season since he had scar tissue removed from his 2017 surgery. Newton noted soon after the January procedure that the pain and loss of strength he experienced last year were gone.

Tuesday was another positive sign for the first pick of the 2011 draft, who did not talk to reporters after practice.

"You guys could hear he brought a little energy," Rivera said. "That really helps when he's involved in the practices."

Rivera believes Newton, with improved mechanics, can pick up where he left off last year when he completed a career-best 67.9 percent of his passes after completing only 58.5 percent during his first seven seasons.

"He'll now be in the second year in the system understanding exactly what he really needs to do as a quarterback,'' Rivera said. "Decisions he needs to make is going to dictate a lot about his throwing style as well."

Running back Christian McCaffrey, who caught Newton's first pass on Tuesday, said it meant a lot having the quarterback participate in minicamp, even if on a limited basis.

"Obviously, he brings a lot of energy to the team," McCaffrey said. "And seeing him throw was really good. Getting the ball out of his hands, letting him go out and whoop it around a little bit ... so it's good. He's done a heck of a job working hard and we're happy to have him back."

How much Newton throws on Wednesday will be determined by how he responds physically to the first day. If there are no setbacks, look for more of the same.

"He's going through the steps of his recovery," Rivera said. "I'm very pleased with him. I really was."