CHARLOTTE – Like most who watched him his first six seasons, Cam Newton is well aware which part of his game needs the most improvement.
"I'm making it my mission to be more consistent," the Panthers quarterback said Tuesday, five days before the start of his seventh season.
He's also understands how he can help make that happen: "Just take what the defense gives me."
The self-awareness is admirable, but only if it translates to the field when live bullets begin flying. It also may not mean much if Newton's surgically repaired shoulder isn't where it needs to be for Sunday's season opener at San Francisco.
"I'm ready now," he assured. "I have no concern.
"I'm just trying to be proactive with every second that I have, whether it's doing the things that (quarterbacks coach Ken) Dorsey's asking me, trying to find ways in the training room to get better or focusing on cardiovascular situations to make sure that I'm at my premium weight."
Thanks to a revamped diet featuring fewer snacks, Newton trimmed down to around 245 pounds this summer, the lightest he's been since coming to Carolina. So while shoulder soreness and rusty timing with his receivers are legit concerns, getting into playing shape shouldn't be as much of an uphill battle as it could be for a guy who played just one series in the preseason.
"His conditioning, there is no issue with that, I can promise you that much right now," said head coach Ron Rivera, who added his 28-year-old quarterback "looks quicker."
Along with focusing on his conditioning, Newton tried to be "more hands-on" with younger players on days he wasn't able to throw over the past few months. That group included his two newest weapons – first-round running back Christian McCaffrey and second-round wideout Curtis Samuel, who is on track to face the 49ers despite hamstring and ankle injuries that plagued his first preseason.
"We didn't draft (McCaffrey) as high as we did to kind of grow up in this offense. We need him to be ready to go – him and (Samuel)," Newton said. "Those guys, whether battling injuries or not, they're being forced into fire, and we're expecting big things from them."
Of course, big things are also expected of Newton, even if he hasn't completed a deep pass against live competition since the end of last season.
"He's throwing the ball well," said Rivera, who confirmed Newton won't have any throwing restrictions against the 49ers. "I'm very excited about it and look forward to the things we're going to do out there."
Beginning with Rivera's comments about an "evolving" offense late last season and continuing with the additions of McCaffrey and Samuel, folks around the league have been looking forward to what the Panthers' offense could look like. But the ceiling for that potential production, as always, hinges on No. 1.
"It's scary to even think about (all the offensive weapons)," Newton said, "but it's up to me to execute.
"I'm extremely pleased (with my conditioning), but that's all for naught if the on-field performance doesn't shake out. I think I'm doing every single thing that I could possibly do on my part that I can control, and that alone gives you a chance."