The silver lining to Cam Newton's turbulent 2016 campaign: His beaten-up body won't require surgery.
Newton spoke honestly about Carolina's ugly season, one that saw him struggle statistically while playing through plenty of pain.
"I think me and football got a love-hate relationship," Newton said. "And we're not on good terms right now. I'm just going to leave her alone for a while."
Coach Ron Rivera, though, came out of Week 17 with nothing but praise for his big-bodied signal-caller who struggled in Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers.
"I thought Cam Newton was about as courageous as it gets," said Rivera, who acknowledged that Newton refused to leave the game despite the nagging shoulder discomfort. "He didn't want to come out. He tried to make some throws that he probably shouldn't have."
Said Newton: "They asked me could I go. I said I could and that was the end of it. ... I just wanted to show that I'm willing to leave it all out on the field."
Newton would like Sunday's game back -- and probably the entire season. One year removed from a torrid MVP campaign, Cam finished 2016 with the NFL's lowest completion percentage among qualified passers (52.9) and a career-low passer rating (75.8).
NFL quarterbacks often play through pain we'll never hear about. It's fair to wonder if we'll see an entirely new player in Carolina when Newton returns next autumn with a clean bill of health.