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Panthers QB Cam Newton 'surprised' WR Steve Smith was released, eager to work with new WRs

Cam Newton says he was surprised the Panthers released veteran wide receiver Steve Smith this offseason.

Newton says "if you were in the 704 (area code), you were caught by surprise. Everybody in the Carolinas was surprised, including myself."

Newton spoke Tuesday at team headquarters during a break from offseason condition workouts, which began Monday.

Along with Smith, the Panthers also lost Brandon LaFell, Ted Gin Jr. and Domenik Hixon via free agency, meaning Newton will be without his top four receivers from last season.

Newton isn't concerned about developing chemistry with his new group of receivers, even though he'll be out until at least June following ankle surgery.

Newton says the changes mean he needs to "take more ownership of the offense."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL