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Cam Newton was trying to be a leader by playing hurt

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks on from the sidelines during the first quarter of an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 1, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seems to understand that he’d be better off this season if he had sat out the end of last season, knowing he’d need surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.

But he said he felt an obligation to his teammates during a difficult 2016, which he still takes a measure of pride in finishing even though they fell well short of the playoffs.

“But at the end of the day, I felt as if there was another thing that was achieved,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of the team’s official website. “I wear the ‘C’ patch on my jersey with great pride, and I feel as if it comes around again, would I reconsider it? Yeah, but also knowing those guys that I’m going to give every single thing that I have to give for this game, for the fans, for my teammates, especially.”

Newton’s three weeks removed from surgery on his throwing shoulder, which he tried to delay and rehab his way around. But that delay also puts the start of training camp in some degree of jeopardy, since he won’t throw again until at least late June.

“Was it smart?” Newton said. “People may say it wasn’t, but at the end of the day, I think the bigger picture was I’m one of the leaders on this team.

“I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”

Of course, he won’t be leading them through the offseason program, when the team is trying to “evolve” an offense without its most important part. Whether that’s a smart thing or not will be determined when he eventually gets back on the field.