MIKE MCCARN, Associated Press
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton laughs with Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith during an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 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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