Denver Broncos’ Von Miller (58) strips the ball from Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton (1) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Denver Broncos’ Von Miller (58) strips the ball from Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton (1) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel/File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has changed his stance on how he views concussions now that he’s had one.

Newton, who just last month downplayed concerns over the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head, said Wednesday that he now better understands that “concussions are real.”

Speaking publicly for the first time about the concussion he sustained Oct. 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, the league’s reigning MVP said he needs to be more careful in the future, calling the hit “preventable.” In the fourth quarter with the Panthers down two scores Newton purposely _ and inexplicably _ appeared to slow down as he approached the end zone on a 2-point conversion run.

That allowed Falcons linebacker Deion Jones to hit Newton from the side. Newton said he never saw Jones coming.

Newton doesn’t remember reaching out the ball to score anyway, saying “that’s when I knew I was messed up.”

He left the game and did not return.

He sat out the following week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well with concussion-related symptoms.

After watching the play on film Newton said, “I was like, `just run through the (dang) end zone, Cam.”’

While Newton said he intends to be more careful to eliminate unnecessary hits, he doesn’t see his first career concussion changing the way he plays the game.

“I look at certain quarterbacks throughout the league and say, `Dang, I wish I could do that. Man, I wish I could win football games and make it look so cool like Tom Brady. Man, I wish I had the throwing accuracy or throwing style like a Matt Stafford or Aaron Rodgers,”’ said Newton, who has run for more touchdowns than QB in league history. “But my edge is running the football inside the tackle. If somebody tries to take that away from me, for what it is, that’s me. That’s going forever be my edge in this league.”

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton only ran the ball twice in Carolina’s 41-38 loss to the New Orleans on Oct. 16 _ his first game back from the concussion. But he said that won’t necessarily be the game plan when the Panthers host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

“I know everybody was watching and saying `Well, how many times is Cam going to run?’ That’s me. That’s who I am. I would prefer to be involved in the game,” Newton said.

Newton said his ability to run makes defense prepare for extra things.

“So when you take that away, then the defense is like, `Yes! We don’t have to prepare for a (running) quarterback,”’ Newton said. “So I’m trying to find any and every way to create edges for us.”

In the past, Newton has downplayed concerns about concussions.

After the sixth-year quarterback took four helmet-to-helmet hits in a season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos, Newton said at a press conference he wasn’t worried about the long-term effects of cumulative hits to the head.

“I’m not here to worry about retirement plans,” Newton said on Sept. 14. “I’m not here to worry about pensions. I’m not here to worry about worker’s (compensation). I’m here to win football games, simple and plain.”

Newton is thinking differently now.

He said he can relate to what Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher is going through. Oher is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals because of a concussion.

Newton said he is even considering doing something to help educate younger football players and coaches about the dangers of concussions through his work with his foundation.

“At (the NFL) level, they are focusing on it,” Newton said. “But in Pee Wee ball, or high school football, that is what turns my stomach because they are being taught by some people who don’t really know football.”

Newton said one thing is for sure _ he doesn’t want another concussion.

“I ain’t never had that feeling” (before),”’ Newton said. “I don’t want it to happen to me or nobody else.”

___

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

 

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