"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.
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.