Cam on shoulder rehab: 'I'm feeling great now'

ATLANTA -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton says the rehabilitation from shoulder surgery is going "unbelievable," and he hopes to be throwing before training camp.

"I'm feeling great now," Newton told ESPN in an interview from "Fellaship," his Atlanta-based cigar bar/restaurant that held its grand opening this past weekend. "I feel like I do have full strength right now. But me telling the doctor, that is different than, you know, whatever the clearance process may be."

The 2015 NFL MVP underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January after being shut down the final two games of the 2018 season. During the process, doctors removed scar tissue that remained from 2017 offseason surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff.

Newton went into last season admittedly feeling the best he has in years, but after a 6-2 start, the shoulder became an issue and was a factor in a seven-game losing streak that ultimately led Carolina to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

Newton hasn't been given a timetable for when he'll be cleared, but he's confident there won't be another setback like last season.

"Just the rehab process," he said. "...Being honest, that's one of the main things on both sides. Not only with the training staff to me, but me with training staff, me letting them know how my body feels, coming up with a plan for practice to being on a pitch count, do I even need a pitch count, and staying on top of the signs before things kind of roll off the hinges."

Newton has done everything on his end to get his body ready. He began a vegan diet in hopes of getting his weight into the 237-pound range, which would be the lowest of his career. He has hired a personal trainer who works with him constantly.

He is following the strict plan of team trainer Ryan Vermillion and doctors to the letter.

"Rehab is going unbelievable, especially for me during a time now, a lot of uncertainty," Newton said. "For me, the human side of me is uncertain as well. But with the support cast from RV, the head trainer and other people that have been working with me hands on daily, I have no doubt I'll be ready to rock and roll when they expect me to be back."

Newton was admittedly scared late last season when his shoulder continued to be an issue to the point where the Panthers had to bring backup Taylor Heinicke off the bench for several Hail Mary pass attempts.

Playing with his kids and sleeping became issues.

"But through it all I feel like I've become better," Newton said. "I feel I've become stronger, mentally and physically, throughout that whole process."

With Newton rehabbing, the Panthers strengthened the backup quarterback position by selecting Charlotte native and former West Virginia quarterback Will Grier in the third round of the draft. Grier will compete with Heinicke and Kyle Allen for the backup job.

He is the first quarterback drafted by the Panthers since Newton was the first pick of the 2011 selection process.

Newton welcomes the challenge.

"It's natural for a person to think I'm intimidated," Newton said. "Bring it on! You know what I'm saying? But not in the sense of enemies or foes or anything like that. I'm expecting, and I texted him this as well, I'm expecting to bring the best out of him and I'm expecting him to bring the best out of me.

Ultimately, however, Newton is focused on himself as he is set to turn 30 on Saturday. He knows he has to get even better than he was before the shoulder became an issue last season, when he completed a career-best 67.9 percent of his passes after completing 58.5 percent for the first seven years of his NFL career.

"Everything starts and ends with me," Newton said. "I know my game play has to be more consistent for this team to be successful."