"Did it catch me by surprise? It caught all of us -- if you were in the 704 region, you were caught by surprise," Newton said Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium, per The Charlotte Observer. "Everybody in the Carolinas was surprised, including myself."
Newton said that while he was surprised he lost four receivers from last season, he was glad to see they got paid.
The quarterback added that he was "moving at a rapid pace" in his recovery and dismissed any concerns that he wouldn't have time in the offseason to build chemistry with his new receiving corps.
The 24-year-old quarterback called himself "the team leader of this organization," which Associated Press reporter Steve Reed notes is the first time Newton has made that declaration.
"I have to take more ownership of the offense and I will," Newton said.
Given the offensive moves (or lack thereof) general manager Dave Gettleman made this offseason, the weight will be completely on Newton to guide the Panthers to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in team history.