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2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS

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Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers’ playbook lingo both slimmer

The Carolina Panthers streamlined a couple of key components of their offense during the offseason – namely, the terminology in the playbook and Cam Newton’s waistline.

Newton, the team’s third-year quarterback, did the latter on his own, and thinks the simplified play-calling under new coordinator Mike Shula will benefit the offense.

“When I say simplify, I don’t mean simplify what we do. I think simplify in my case is verbiage in calling the play,” Newton said Wednesday. “When guys know what they have to do, I think they play faster and I think it looks better on the field.”

Newton won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and went to the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season while working with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who left in January to become Cleveland’s head coach.

Newton doesn’t expect a radical shift in philosophy under Shula, the Panthers’ quarterbacks coach for Newton’s first two seasons in Charlotte.

“I don’t think we’re going to be changing much,” Newton said. “We’re just going to try to sharpen up the blade of things we’ve put in and installed.”

What’s changed is Newton’s weight. The 6-foot-5 quarterback said he’s dropped 12 pounds since the end of last season, going from 255 to 243 – as of Tuesday, anyway.

“But we’re going to see what I weigh in (Wednesday) because I had hot wings (Tuesday) night,” Newton said, drawing laughter at a press conference following the Panthers’ organized team activities practice.

Newton, who missed only a handful of plays during his first two seasons, said the weight loss was a personal challenge and not in response to his performance or health. Newton has stayed in good shape throughout his NFL career, and said his physique doesn’t look much different than it did before.

“It was just a personal goal that I set for myself. I’m not going to go into what it really meant because looking at my body from afar you really couldn’t tell,” Newton said. “Being that I lost the weight, nobody really could tell, either. It’s just me challenging myself to have an edge going into the season.”

Newton’s weight loss coincided with his return to Auburn, where Newton resumed work toward his sociology degree last semester. Someone jokingly asked Newton whether he had avoided Auburn’s cafeteria.

With classes over – he still needs 15 hours to finish his degree – Newton has led the Panthers’ offense through the first two weeks of OTA practices. He said free agent acquisitions Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon have been doing an “incredible job” with the rest of the receivers.

Newton talked about taking the next step as a quarterback – understanding down-and-distances better and making better decisions accordingly – and as an organization.

The Panthers, who finished 7-9 last season, have not made the playoffs since 2008 and have never posted consecutive winning seasons in their 18-year history.

“I think this town, this city, this state has been fiending for a winning season,” Newton said. “As a player, you owe that to fans and you owe that to yourself. Especially with the hard work everybody’s been doing in the offseason, coming to the facilities when they didn’t have to (on) optional days and just giving unbelievable effort.”

Though most observers believe Ron Rivera will be coaching to keep his job in 2013, Newton said Rivera’s status would not create additional pressure. Newton was asked whether this season could be considered successful if the Panthers don’t make the playoffs.

“I’m not going to get into the logistics of finishing this season because that’s months and months away,” he said. “I feel like if we do what we’re capable of doing with maximizing each and every play and being smart about it, I think everything will take care of itself.”

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