SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- For the second time in the first week of training camp, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton did not participate in any drills -- a sign that he remains a "work in progress'' in his return from offseason shoulder surgery.
But the 2015 NFL MVP said Thursday that it was a relief to throw a 45-yard pass without pain -- something he couldn't do at the end of last season -- during the first practice a week ago.
"It was a sigh of relief for a lot of people, because I wasn't right at the end of the season," said Newton, speaking to reporters for the first time at camp. "And it was a sigh of relief for myself as well to be able to throw like that again.
"But like I said, it's a process. I don't want people to just assume, 'Oh, Cam's back!' I'm doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that I'm able to practice and to practice with the capabilities I know I can and the team expects me to be."
The process includes a more compact throwing motion that gets Newton's lower body more involved and takes stress off the shoulder, on which he first had surgery in 2017.
It also includes a new warmup routine, a series of arm rotations and motions added by the training staff.
Being a spectator this often, this early in training camp also is new for Newton.
"A lot of times, you have to just get out of your own head," Newton said. "When you're hurt for so long, you keep telling yourself, 'Just do it. Just do it.' As football players, our mantra is big macho guy going down the field, never showing signs of weakness, never get hurt. And then you're doing it, but you're not necessarily making things better.
"I keep saying it, but it's a process. A lot of times it's easier than other times. But at the end of the day, you just have to keep moving forward and be obedient to coaches and trainers and everybody has your best interest."
Newton admittedly no longer feels the need to be Superman,' as he did when he entered the league as the top pick in the 2011 draft. He bought into offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system predicated on spreading the ball around and relying on playmakers such as running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver DJ Moore.
That helped Newton achieve a season-high 67.9 completion percentage in 2018 despite arm soreness that ultimately resulted in him being shut down for the final two games. He came into last season with a career 58.5 completion percentage.
"I just want to win, man," Newton said. "Just want to win, as a lot of people say and do. We're past due for South Carolina and North Carolina to have something to brag about. We're going to start by perfecting ourselves and perfecting the things we can control.
"We want this division back. That's why we're going as hard as we are."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton has looked 100 percent when he has practiced.
"He's moving very comfortably and he's very smooth in his movements and you don't see him favoring or wincing or anything like that," Rivera said. "You don't see him lumbering.
"The biggest thing is he's gone out and sought the right type of help. He's got the right type of people around him that are working around him. And I do think his progress most certainly will show on the football field."
Newton hasn't been as flamboyant and talkative during practices, partly because he doesn't have outside linebacker Thomas Davis to jaw with and partly because he's focused on his recovery and progressing in Turner's offense.
Newton calls all of this part of his growth as he enters his ninth NFL season.
Accepting days off also is part of that growth.
"One thing I wanted to work on was being honest with myself, knowing when my body is talking to me, knowing that it's OK to sit out a practice," Newton said. "I'm at a point in my career now where I'm as hungry as ever, but I have to be as smart as ever.
"Doing certain things just to get on the field may not be the best kind of theory about it."