CHARLOTTE The Carolina Panthers didn’t have a chance to see the full operation in motion during the spring’s offseason, but there’s value in what they accomplished after a disturbing 2016 season that came on the heels of a Super Bowl appearance the season before.Much of the objective was to return to the form that led to their success and re-established the areas that carried them so far in the 2015 season.Some of the areas that can create a bounce-back are obvious, such as a healthy linebacker Luke Kuechly, who spent a good part of the past season in concussion protocol.And there’s the need to see quarterback Cam Newton return to form. Plus, the possibilities for the offense could be almost endless with versatile running back Christian McCaffrey, a rookie who arrived for the final day of minicamp.”It’s good to come out here,” McCaffrey said. “Real anxious … I’m glad to be here now. You miss some time, but that part is over now.”The same could be said for Newton, who was seen throwing again for the first time since undergoing offseason surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder.The Panthers posted a video on the team website to document an update on Newton’s recovery. He threw 45 passes to head trainer Ryan Vermillion in the locker room in sets of 15 throws.”Obviously, it’s still not 100 percent, but seeing the ball come out of my hand in a throwing motion was good,” Newton told the website. “When I say it’s not 100 percent, I’m noting the range-of-motion part. Like if you sleep with your legs hanging off your bed the whole night, you’re going to wake up and be super stiff. Or like sitting on your hands, or sitting in an awkward position and finally getting up and moving that’s how I feel.”Newton underwent surgery on March 30 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff that was expected to require a four-month rehab process. At the time, the team said the 2015 NFL MVP would not be allowed to throw for 12 weeks and wouldn’t throw with the team for 16 weeks.Newton is expected to be cleared to throw to teammates when the Panthers begin training camp on July 26 in Spartanburg, S.C.”I want to be 100 percent come training camp,” Newton told the team website. “There’s no doubt that I will be. Shoot, in two weeks, I’ll be ready to rock and roll. It’s just the stiffness, getting the range of motion back, strengthening those joints and the arm. Hopefully, with no setbacks, we’ll be good.”Newton’s injury occurred in the Panthers’ Week 14 game against the Chargers. He played in each of the team’s remaining three games and underwent offseason MRI exams to monitor his progress before deciding on surgery.Newton passed for 3,509 yards with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season for the Panthers, who missed the playoffs after finishing last in the NFC South with a 6-10 record.McCaffrey’s arrival came with considerable hype, if for no other reason that often storylines can be mundane at this time of the year.”He understands the game. He knows the game, and I think that shows,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “I’m fairly confident that once we get to training camp, when we get going full blast, there’s going to be no falloff.”After Thursday’s workout, even Newton jumped into the frenzy.”We’ve all been waiting on Christian, even myself,” Newton said.Not only did McCaffrey attend the final minicamp session, but so did team owner Jerry Richardson, who makes such rare appearances that they’re notable whenever he’s on hand. For at least a day, McCaffrey seemed to fit in.”I’ve been studying (the playbook) so hard,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of vets helping me out.”Much of the intrigue around McCaffrey is how his role will complement that of veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, who often has been the go-to running back the past few seasons.If nothing else, McCaffrey’s limited role to this point limited some of the examples of how that might pan out, though training camp is bound to offer better insight on that.While the defensive unit often had its way during minicamp, that’s probably appropriate in the big picture. The offense, however, can take solace in that its starting quarterback and prized draftee weren’t full participants and their additions should provide a significant lift.Some of the defenders probably departed the minicamp with an extra dose of confidence. That, too, might be a step toward something better in a few months because that unit took some shots last season and rebuilding the swagger wouldn’t seem to hurt.
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