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Cam Newton not sure about coaches' plan to limit his running

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton doesn't sound as though he's fully into the coaching staff's plan to reduce his role in the running game this season.

"I don't understand certain things," Newton said on Thursday, the first time he's spoken in depth to reporters since undergoing shoulder surgery in March. "That's my edge. You going to expect a lion not to roar?"

Coach Ron Rivera said late last season the offense needed to evolve to take the pressure off Newton to run out of the read-option and to keep the 2015 NFL MVP from taking so many hits.

Carolina then drafted dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth pick of the draft and added slot receiver/running back Curtis Samuel in the second round to give Newton more options on short passes and checkdown throws.

"I couldn't imagine talking to [Tom] Brady or talking to Aaron [Rodgers] or talking to even Matt Ryan or [Drew] Brees and saying, 'Hey, are you going to stay in the pocket all day like that?'" Newton said. "That's where you feel comfortable at.

"In my career, over the whole body of work, the things that have put me at an advantage most times is having that ability to run."

Newton said he will continue to take what the defense gives him.

"Yeah, do I have weapons? Absolutely," he said. "But it's still going to be on me and in me to focus on getting those different outlets the ball the right times and knowing that."

"As far as designed and called runs? I could care less. I want to win in the worst way. Straight up."

Newton's immediate concern is getting his right shoulder ready for Week 1. He underwent surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in March, and Wednesday night was the first time he's thrown in an organized practice since the last week of the 2016 season.

"It felt great," Newton said. "I was kind of nervous, though. I ain't going to lie. Nervous just because of the experience. A couple of months. But excited to say the least. All in all, I felt good."

As for the evolution of the offense, there will be a concerted effort to get the ball into the hands of playmakers such as McCaffrey and Samuel.

Coaches say quicker passes that can turn into big plays will help reduce the number of hits Newton takes in the pocket.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Newton has been hit or sacked 922 times since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011. Second during that span is Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson at 615.

Newton also has taken a lot of hits on designed runs and scrambles. Since 2011, his 3,566 yards rushing and 48 rushing touchdowns are the most by a quarterback.

But Newton's biggest focus is getting back to winning as the Panthers did during a 2015 season when they went an NFL-best 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl.

He took last season (6-10), which statistically was the worst year of his career, "extremely personal." He reported to camp at 246 pounds, the lightest he's been since he was listed at 245 as a rookie.

He's been in the 260-pound range the past two seasons.

Newton said he didn't go on the Brady diet that the New England quarterback uses to stay fit.

"I need to go on the Tom Brady record," he said of the future Hall of Famer. "You know what I'm saying? I took last year personal. I took it extremely personal and I knew that something had to change, and it started with myself.

"I feel as with my impact to that locker room, I wanted people to see this is just not no other year. I didn't want to speak it. I wanted to action it."