- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Cam Newton is quickly working his way back from ankle surgery.

Carolina’s Pro Bowl quarterback did some light throwing during Wednesday’s OTA and coach Ron Rivera said afterward he wouldn’t rule out Newton participating in the team’s mandatory minicamp June 17-19.

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Rivera said.

If Newton can return early that would give him a chance to begin developing some chemistry with a completely revamped receiving corps.

Carolina parted ways with its top four receivers from last season, including Steve Smith.

Newton went through warm-ups with his teammates and then mostly played the role of cheerleader during the two-hour practice session, except for a short period where he threw 10- to 20-yard passes to receivers from a stationary position. However, Newton stayed after practice to throw a few dozen additional passes to some of the team’s younger wide receivers, including first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin.

The QB had surgery to relieve chronic pain in his left ankle and had been expected to miss four months - which would have kept him out until just before the start of training camp.

But he appears ahead of schedule.

“He’s been doing it for the last few days - throwing the ball on the side,” Rivera said. “He’s been looking good, he really has. And I’m excited about it. He says that foot is getting stronger and stronger every day so we’re excited about what’s happening for him.”

Newton did not address the media Wednesday.

He has been working on building a relationship with Benjamin, who helped Florida State win a national championship last season and is a player the team hopes will develop into the No. 1 receiver to replace Smith, who was released during the offseason.

“It’s neat to see,” Rivera said. “They have kind of hit it off.”

Defensive end Greg Hardy, who was arrested earlier this month for assaulting a female and communicating threats, did participate in practice. However, he declined interview requests as he left the practice field saying he had to get inside the stadium to lift weights.

Hardy is scheduled to appear in court June 27 to answer the misdemeanor charges.

Hardy’s teammates said they don’t believe his arrest will be a distraction.

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