CHARLOTTE – Before the Panthers' three-day minicamp came to a close on Thursday, the team received a nice surprise.
Quarterback Cam Newton took part in seven-on-seven drills for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery three months ago.
"It just kind of shows the team that he's coming," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's working hard to get himself ready. Nobody expected him to be out here today, except for me. The only ones that knew were the coaches.
"He was a little high, a little eager. He talked about feeling like he'd been cooped up and he finally got a chance to go out there and spread his wings. He made some good decisions, made the right reads, just didn't deliver the ball where he needed to and that will come with time."
Prior to the start of the seven-on-seven portion of practice, Newton took three- and five-step drops during drills with the wide receivers. He also completed pocket mobility drills. All of his snaps Thursday came from the shotgun.
Newton characterized his performance as "sluggish" but was happy to be a more active participant.
"My mind was moving faster than my body," Newton said. "It comes with time. I'm excited to get back out there. I'm not 100 percent yet, but any progress is good progress for me.
"I'm just trying to make the next rep better than the last rep. That's been my mentality.
"For me to do seven-on-seven today was a step forward."
Tight end Greg Olsen – who along with other receivers and running backs plans to work with Newton prior to the start of training camp – noted that Newton's increased participation during the final minicamp practice gave the team a lift.
"It's nice to see him out here moving around, taking drops and throwing the ball. They said all along he'd be fine for training camp, and that seems like it is right on schedule," Olsen said. "His presence and his energy – I think it was felt. It was a good thing for the team to wrap up minicamp with that."