Newton makes winning return

CHARLOTTE – He was involved in a violent car accident and dragged himself out of his overturned pick-up truck on December 9. On December 21, he tossed the game-winning touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns.

When quarterback Cam Newton was asked to put the last 12 days into perspective, he took a deep breath.

"I'll tell you, it was somewhat tiring, honestly, just to go through so much," Newton said.

One can only imagine how exhausting, both mentally and physically. But we all knew Newton wanted to play in the regular season home finale after missing last week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He practiced throughout the week and felt fine. The two fractures in his lower back weren't causing him trouble. So Saturday night, head coach Ron Rivera told him he was starting.

"He was the Cam Newton that we know," linebacker Luke Kuechly said.

Newton completed 18-of-31 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He rushed 12 times for 63 yards and one touchdown. He threw the ball with zip, he lowered his shoulder to finish runs, he smiled, he celebrated.

"The effort was tremendous," Rivera said. "It speaks to who he is and his toughness, but also what he means to his teammates… The way his teammates rallied around him and worked with him."

Those teammates were slightly in awe of Newton's impressive return.

"God has built a special dude right there," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.

"The guy's a warrior," left tackle Byron Bell said.

Newton just considers himself lucky. And after all he's been through, he's got a unique viewpoint to share with the Panthers who are one win away from back-to-back NFC South titles.

"You just have to win the day," Newton said. "You just have to seize each and every moment. Make the most of every opportunity that you get.

"I'm just happy to get a win today."

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