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Ron Rivera: Ankle surgery won't affect Cam Newton

Don't expect ankle surgery to change the way the Carolina Panthers use Cam Newton.

Ron Rivera told reporters Tuesday that the March 18 procedure will allow Newton to remain the same player he's been since coming into the league.

"It's an old injury he'd been dealing with, he'd been fighting through for years," Rivera said. "The surgery is going to fix it. It's going to repair it. It's going to put it in better shape than it has been. Cam is going to play the way he plays. He's going to play to his ability, the best of it.

"Is there a thought you have to be careful with him?" Rivera continued. "Yeah, but you know if this surgery is going to make it better than it has been in a long time, you want him to play the game the way he plays it best."

The surgery tightened ankle ligaments that had bothered Newton since he rolled his ankle during a Week 10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Newton is fully expected to return for training camp after missing some or all of offseason practices.

Some other takeaways from the press conference, which featured both Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman:

» The depleted state of the Panthers wide receiver corps has been a major topic of discussion around the Panthers, but Gettleman has confidence in in-house options that include Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Tavarres King.

"The players we brought in, and again I know it's not sexy, but often times the answers are on your roster," Gettleman said. "And we have a couple younger guys that we have confidence in terms of them becoming contributors. So we're happy where we're at."

» Speaking of wide receiver, Rivera doubled down on his "Moneyball" approach to the position.

"Other than the QB, there's five other players that can make plays for you," he said. "And I think right now what we've done is bring in guys who have the ability to make plays for us. I feel very comfortable with that. We've got to be able to replace 10 catches a game on the average by the wide receiver position. How explosive those plays are will determine the types of players we have on the field."

» Gettleman said he's given first-round grades to nine or 10 wide receivers and offensive tackles. Call it a major upset if one of those positions aren't addressed with the Panthers' first pick (28th overall).

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks out the crystal ball and predicts the potential surprises that could shake up the NFL Draft.

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