Cam Newton's shoulder issue appeared obvious to anyone who watched the Carolina Panthers quarterback skip passes short of receivers, toss low-flying worm-burners and struggle-bus his way through the latter portion of his season before finally being shut down for good with two weeks left in the campaign.
If the TV-watching world noticed Newton's limitations, clearly defenses took advantage as well.
"At this persona that we play, you can't show no signs of weakness," Newton said. "But I was weak, and I felt so vulnerable. I felt so scared. I felt so afraid because I know I wasn't myself. I didn't know what was wrong with my shoulder. I just knew that it hurt, and I knew there was an issue. I couldn't throw the ball further than 30 yards, no lie. So I was trying to keep up with it as much as possible until the wheels fell off.
"I felt like defenses [were] exposing me because they knew I couldn't throw the ball downfield. Not being in the position physically to be able to make the throws that you know you're capable of making, that was the most disheartening thing of the whole year."
In the final six games of Newton's season, all losses, the quarterback attempted just 16 passes of 20-plus air-yards, completing four and throwing three interceptions, per Next Gen Stats. Seven of those passes went 25-plus yards, zero were completed and one was intercepted.
Newton underwent surgery this offseason to clean up the shoulder, which the quarterback hopes will finally put the lingering problems to bed and he can return to his MVP-caliber playing style.
"So here I am, I'm in this position of a lot of people are saying, 'They've seen the best of Cam Newton,'" he said. "F--- every single thing that's been said that I don't like -- straight up. I'm not here to knock on doors, I'm here to kick the motherf-----s down. Seeing the doubt, hearing the whispers of he don't got it no more fuels me. That's what makes this comeback even more extraordinary for me. I feel this is going to make me even more dangerous. When it's all said and done I can look back in my life and I know that this particular time in my life propelled me to that next point. I'm excited for what the future holds."