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Cam Newton on opener vs. Broncos: 'It's not a rematch'

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The last time the Carolina Panthers left a football field, Cam Newton's head hung following a loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, which seemingly wiped away a year's worth of fun in one swoop.

On Thursday the Panthers will undoubtedly revisit those memories as they step onto the field in Denver to take on the Broncos once again.

Just don't call it a Super Bowl rematch in front of Cam Newton.

"A lot of people want to make it a rematch. It's not a rematch," Newton said Sunday, via the Associated Press. "It's just our next opponent."

Let's quibble over the details for a second: Technically, it is a rematch; sorry, Cam. The owners didn't change; the team names didn't change; the cities where those teams reside didn't change.

You can understand Newton's point, though. A lot does change from one offseason to the next. One season has little bearing on the next. Huge swings can take place, sending a team from mediocre to the championship game. In the course of nine months, an NFL player can go from celebrating triumph on the highest peak to curling up into a ball in the lowest tunnel.

The Panthers are certainly different than they were in the Super Bowl. Josh Norman is gone, with a gaggle of rookies and youngsters taking center stage in the defensive backfield. No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin returns from an ACL tear; Devin Funchess is ready to make the leap in Year 2. And the lessons of the Super Bowl loss are certainly constructive.

"No one likes losing, so I took it extremely personal," Newton said of the Panthers' 24-10 Super Bowl loss to the Broncos.

The Broncos are also a different team. Gone are Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan on defense. The offensive line is revamped and seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian replaces future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning under center. Ten players from the Broncos' 2015 roster are on a new team (second-most in the NFL behind the Browns).

So whether Cam wants to call Thursday's opener a rematch or not, we can all agree on one thing: Thank the sweet lord football is back.

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