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Cam Newton: Panthers 'favorites' for first time in years

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Panthers quarterback and NFL MVP Cam Newton was voted No. 1 on NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2016 list. Who would he vote for at the top spot?

"[Tom] Brady or J.J. [Watt]. You know I actually played against them this year, or even [Antonio Brown]," Newton said Tuesday at Gatorade's High School Athlete of the Year awards in Los Angeles. "You know Julio [Jones] is special. Luke [Kuechly] is Luke. I think that's what makes football so cool is just that it may not be a unanimous number one ever because you go in different regions, certain people may feel a certain type of way and I'm cool with that."

As for winning top honors?

"Well, you know it's an unbelievable accolade in itself, getting your peers' respect," Newton said. "With me having so much respect and me being so much of a fan of so many guys in this league, for them to vote me number one, it means a lot."

Having lost the Super Bowl and taken criticism for sulking at a post-game news conference, Newton said he received some critical advice from two Super Bowl champions about how to conduct himself on and off the field in the future.

"I think one of my favorite conversations this whole offseason had to come from Ray Lewis and Michael Strahan at the same time," Newton said. "We had an unbelievable dinner and talk of life, not just necessarily about football, and them making me realize my responsibility as a person.

"For two great men who mean so much, they impacted me in so many different ways than they would ever know with their skill set on the field, but I'm just blown away by their mental approach outside of the game and with them taking the time to talk to me on numerous occasions via text, phone call, or even when we see each other, it means a lot."

Newton's Panthers open training camp in two weeks. As the defending NFC champions, the approach and focus will be different than before and Newton said that he is eager to see how everyone handles things entering the 2016 season.

"For the first time in a long time, I think for me, this may be the first time ever since I've been affiliated with the Panthers that we're favorites, not necessarily to go far in the playoffs but just winning games and being favorites to win those games," Newton said. "One thing that Coach Shula (offensive coordinator Mike Shula) as well as Coach [Ron] Rivera shared with us is that nothing is promised.

"Just because we went 15-1 in the regular season doesn't necessarily mean we're going to go 16-0 in the next season. For us, I think our main focus right now is starting from scratch and understanding that and maximizing every opportunity and every person's responsibility and for us as players, coming together to make each other better."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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