Panthers QB Cam Newton focused on ankle, not new contract
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton says his focus is on getting back on the football field after ankle surgery, not a new contract. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton said his focus is on getting back on the football field, not a new contract. The Panthers quarterback said Wednesday he's happy for San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, who recently signed a six-year, $126 million contract. He even sent a congratulatory text message to Kaepernick, who beat Newton and the Panthers in the NFC divisional playoffs 23-10 in January. The Panthers have talked about a long-term contract for Newton but no deal has been completed. "For me, that's the last thing that's on my mind," Newton said. Newton didn't practice Wednesday as he continues to rehab his left ankle following surgery in March, but spoke to the media inside the stadium afterward. He said he wants to participate in next week's three-day minicamp, but isn't sure if he'll be ready. Newton and Kaepernick are linked in many respects because they came out of college the same year. Newton was selected first overall in the NFL draft in 2011, but only this past year did he finally get the Panthers to the playoffs. Kaepernick was selected 35 picks behind Newton but has helped the 49ers reach the NFC championship game three straight seasons. "Two different people, two different organizations," Newton said. "I wish Colin the best. ... I reached out and told him he deserved it. To do what he has done up to this point, he deserves to get paid." Newton can make an argument he does too based on three impressive statistical seasons. He has started every game for the Panthers since coming into the league and thrown for 11,299 yards with 64 touchdown passes and 42 interceptions. He's also run for 2,032 yards and 28 TDs. But while general manager Dave Gettleman said Newton has proven to him that he's a franchise quarterback, the salary cap strapped Panthers haven't signed the former Heisman Trophy winner to a long-term deal. The Panthers did pick up the option on the fifth year of Newton's rookie contract, which means Newton's salary will jump from $3.3 million this year to $14.6 million in 2015. Newton has been working on an underwater treadmill in recent weeks, receiving ice and stem treatments for his left ankle. He's also been throwing passes on the side during six of the team's last nine OTA practices. He said he's still experiences some pain in his ankle that reminds him he's not quite 100 percent. The team's three-day minicamp begins Tuesday. "Physically I'm coming along fine and I'm on page right where I expected to be, but mentally I'm bored," Newton said. Newton said he's spent the last seven weeks pouring over game film from last year and practice film from OTAs. He acknowledged that while the extra time in the film room has been beneficial, he said it has become "a little monotonous." When he returns to the field Newton will be looking to develop some chemistry with an overhauled corps or wide receivers. The Panthers cut ties with their top four wide receivers from last year, including Newton's go-to guy Steve Smith. The team added free agents Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood and drafted Kelvin Benjamin in the first round. While Newton wasn't ready to say this year's group of receivers is better than last year's, he did say they have a chip on their shoulders. "The elephant in the room has already been stated," Newton said. "Those guys have already accepted the challenge. You don't have to go in there and tell those guys, 'Hey, you're projected (to be) the sorriest receiver (group) in the NFL.' We already know. "But with that, those guys already have that fire in their eyes. I would rather those guys be like that and for them to go out there and bust their tails like they've been doing. It's kind of like a slap in not only their face but my face as well." ___ AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org
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