CHARLOTTE – Cam Newton doesn't want to hear your theories about how Thursday's game to kick off the NFL season represents a chance at revenge, a chance to right a wrong from the Panthers' perspective and somehow erase a portion of the pain from their Super Bowl setback in February.
He can't afford to live in the past with a visit to the reigning champion Denver Broncos fast approaching. He can't do anything about the past.
Instead, there's no better time than the present.
"I'm so focused on the lead-up to our game on Thursday. I can't look back," Newton said. "A lot of people are going to make it a rematch, but it's not a rematch. It's just our next opponent.
"They're a great team, we understand that. We're putting in our bid to be a great team as well."
The Panthers and the Broncos were great teams a season ago, but while Newton mentioned multiple times his belief that the Panthers' best is good enough, he didn't spell out that the Panthers didn't play their best the last time the teams met.
There's no point, really. Carolina enjoyed a historically successful season, one that included a serious run at perfection, eventually a 15-1 regular season mark and an NFC Championship. The final chapter didn't match up to the journey to that point, a 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50, but it was the final chapter nonetheless.
Now, it's about throwing out the record book and authoring a new story, perhaps this time with the one thing last year's tale was missing – a storybook ending.
"Everybody is anticipating what the Carolina Panthers will be all about, and we have our first exam come Thursday," Newton said. "We're preparing for it now, and hopefully we'll be ready to go."
You can bet the Panthers will be ready to go. Sure, they're sick of being reminded about the Super Bowl – Newton joked that Thursday's game would give him 60 media-free minutes – but then again they don't need to be reminded. That's the last meaningful thing this team did on a football field, so regardless of who they were assigned to play in this year's opener, they would be welcoming the opportunity.
"I really can't wait," Newton said. "We're just going to play football, and that's what it's all about.
"This game will be a great game. We want them at their best, and I'm pretty sure they want us at our best. What other way would you want to start the season than going into a big, hostile environment and getting a big, much-needed win and creating great habits to start the year off?"
When asked if beating the Broncos would take away any of the Super Bowl sting, Newton flatly responded, "No. We'd just be 1-0."
That's true, but being 1-0 was Newton's stated goal leading up to every game last year, and look how far that got him and the Panthers. And of course, any form of 1-0 is better than a big, fat 0-1 that's lingered for nearly seven months now.
No, a victory Thursday won't change what happened in Super Bowl 50. And no, a victory Thursday won't have much to do with what eventually happens in Super Bowl 51.
But for a competitor like Newton, a victory Thursday is what he wants and what he needs above all else at this point in time.
"We're trying to get guys 100 percent and on the same page. If we do that, I feel as if we put ourselves in an unbelievable position to do what to we're capable of doing, and that's winning this football game," Newton said. "And that's why we play this game."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game at Denver.