Newton not worried about ‘no-name’ receiving corps

nfl-Cam-Newton-PanthersCarolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has heard it all — the jokes, the criticism, the repeated questions of who is he going to throw to in 2014?

Newton was inside Wednesday rehabbing his ankle that underwent offseason surgery. But when he met with the media after the team’s OTA practice, he unleashed a spirited defense of the made-over receiver corps.

“The elephant in the room has already been stated,” Newton said. “You don’t need to go in there and tell those guys, ‘Hey, you’re projected to be the sorriest receivers in the NFL.’

“It’s kind of like a slap in not only their faces, but my face as well. The things they’re saying is the utmost disrespect. It’s actually as if they’re being picked up from the street and saying, ‘Hey, you want to play receiver?'”

Carolina’s offseason wideout reconstruction saw Newton lose his top four receivers in Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon.

From the outside, the replacements — Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood — seem like a big step back. But the Panthers’ plan of redoing a unit that was part of the fourth-worst passing offense in the league last season actually makes a lot of sense.

They added Kelvin Benjamin with their first pick in last month’s draft, and they are intrigued by a few other young guys on the roster who have never received a lot of snaps.

If Newton can find success with a group many assume he will fail with, he could set himself up for a huge payday. The Panthers picked up his fifth-year option for 2015, but the team will likely attempt to sign him to a long-term deal next offseason.

An NFL Network report Tuesday night said the team-friendly contract that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed last week “really scares people who know Cam Newton very well.” But the Panthers’ most important player claimed otherwise.

“That’s the last thing on my mind. . . .First thing is trying to get little ankie right,” Newton said, referencing a nickname he apparently gave his ankle. “I’m not worried about money. My obligation is to be 100 percent. No limping, no gimping, no grimacing or nothing come time for me to be on that practice field.”

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