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USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Pelissero recaps the NFL owners meeting and the proposed league rule changes.
USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX – Surgery to his right throwing shoulder isn’t the only concern for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton this offseason.

His head coach, Ron Rivera, admitted that Newton’s play in 2016 was impaired by his mental outlook.

“He’s going to have to rebuild his confidence,” Rivera told reporters Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. “I mean, it was shook. Let’s be honest. I’m not even going to lie about that. The young man went through a tough time and we went through a tough time. Why? Because of the injuries that we suffered on the offensive line. That was probably the biggest thing. It just kind of shows the importance of protecting your quarterback.”

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Newton completed 52.9% of his passes for 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His quarterback rating of 75.8 was a career low, and the Panthers finished 6-10.

Those numbers marked a stark drop-off from his Most Valuable Player campaign the previous season, in which Newton completed 59.8% of his passes for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns while leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a trip to Super Bowl 50, though Carolina fell to the Denver Broncos 24-10.

One of the chief reasons for Newton’s struggles, Rivera noted, was because of a leaky offensive line that permitted Newton to get hit repeatedly.

The Panthers announced March 21 that Newton played with a partially torn rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder late in the year. After rest and rehab did not solve the issue, Newton now will undergo surgery and miss all of Carolina’s organized team activities…