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Newton is the show, even if he won't say it

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said all the right things on Thursday, from how he wouldn't hurt the team and start Sunday's opener at Tampa Bay if his fractured ribs hindered his effectiveness to how good his backups were.

He said his revamped offensive line was "better than ever" even though it didn't perform all that well in four preseason games and that his new group of wide receivers was "playing with as much confidence as I've ever seen."

He noted the Panthers, who ranked second in total defense a year ago, had a top-10 defense.

Then he said this:

"There's no doubt in my mind we have what it takes to be a great team in this league. One [player] don't stop no show."

Stop.

Newton's absence may not stop the show, but it definitely would slow it down -- considerably. Nothing against backup quarterback Derek Anderson, but there's a reason he's the backup.

When Newton is on the field, the Panthers are a more potent offense because he's a threat as a runner as well as a passer. His 28 rushing touchdowns the past three years are 21 more than the next closest quarterback.

He keeps defenses off balance because of his versatility.

He keeps opposing defensive coordinators up late at night.

"When he's out there, we're definitely a better team," tight end Ed Dickson said.

Newton wouldn't give a number on how close to 100 percent he might be on Sunday. He probably won't be 100 percent regardless of how much progress he makes over the next few days.

But I have no doubt he will be on the field, even if he and coach Ron Rivera left open the possibility the two-time Pro Bowler might not be after being so adamant he would for the past week.

Newton would never say this, but I can. Where this offense is concerned, he is the show, just as Peyton Manning is the show at Denver and Tom Brady is at New England.

"I can't have a selfish approach and say it's all about me," said Newton, continuing to say all the right things. "Either way it goes, the Carolina Panthers, we're going to be good."