Cam Newton addressed getting cut from the New England Patriots in a discussion with his father, Cecil, on the quarterback’s YouTube channel.
As things tend to be with Newton, the message was a little bit all over the place, and came across in a highly entertaining manner, but in the end made sense if you listened closely and beyond the wildest pull quotes.
Start with this: Newton sounded disappointed that he lost the starting job to rookie Mac Jones and was summarily cut. Who wouldn’t be? He wasn’t angry, bitter or conspiratorial, however. His attitude was mostly upbeat. He laughed, smiled and joked that this wasn’t a retirement video, even though the backdrop of his alma mater, Westlake High School in Atlanta, made it look like that.
He understood the wisdom, from the Patriots' perspective, in going with Jones and not wanting a former league MVP with a huge personality and name sitting over his shoulder. It was, strategically, a way to make a clean break.
“Mac Jones didn’t beat me out,” Cam said. “But I would have been a distraction knowing if they would have given him the starting role. They knew the perception that would have had if the success didn’t come.”
He also believes if he had been the starter from Week 1, that New England, now sporting a loaded roster, risked him having a lot of early success and delaying the transition to Jones.
“With that roster you can win right now,” Cam said. “If you go 4-1 or 5-0, you’re locked in … the reason why they released me is because indirectly I was going to be a distraction, without being the starter.”
How, Cecil asked?
“Just my aura,” Cam said. “That’s my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton to your facility, you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are interested by the mere fact, ‘Who is he?’”
He isn’t wrong about that. Cam also made it clear that if he had been asked to be the back-up, he would have gladly accepted the role. He tried to mentor and teach Jones as much as he could during camp.
“I prided myself and still pride myself on being the ultimate professional,” Cam said. “ … If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we are going to give the team to Mac. You’re going to be the second string. We expect you to be everything and then some to guide thru this team.’ I would’ve said, ‘absolutely.’
“The truth of the matter is this, he would have been uncomfortable. And they knew.”
As for Jones, he had high praise and expects great things from the Alabama product.
“They are going to win football games with Mac Jones,” Cam said.
Cam said he felt “bamboozled” when a Patriots-approved trip to Atlanta to get a second opinion on an old injury sent him into the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol and caused him to miss five days of meetings and practices.
“They gave me clearance to go," Cam said. "This was the last time I felt that I had an opportunity to get a second opinion … To find out I had to sit out, that’s when I kinda felt bamboozled, because y’all told me to go. It wasn’t like, ‘Cam if you go, you’re taking up all the risk.’”
That said, he doesn’t think being unvaccinated is why he was cut. He said it just made the decision easier when Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia met with him at Gillette Stadium and informed him of the decision.
He acknowledges he should have seen it coming even though he was named the first-string quarterback and started all three preseason games.
“I look back at it, I was probably getting two reps to his 10 reps, and that’s why it was starting to make sense,” Cam said. “Even though I was starting, that doesn’t necessarily mean nothing, and that’s where they did a good job of disguising it … I would get the first two-to-three series. He would take it from the second quarter all the way to the third.”
Cecil Newton expressed a stronger level of frustration at the decision, but Cam was quick to brush that off as the natural reaction of a protective father. “The way you are looking at the situation is no different than any other parent.”
Cam acknowledged that he wasn’t a great player for the Patriots last year, noting, in part, that he wasn’t surrounded by great weapons and only had five weeks of prep before the season for a new system that asked him to read all of the defenses.
Still, he was clear that he should have done better.
“I didn't play good last year,” Cam said. “I was inaccurate. I didn’t know the playbook. They had to dumb it down … It's so new to me. I've never been in a system where I had to know where the [middle linebacker] was [lining up] … You can’t say that’s stupid and why wouldn’t you know that? I would say 30 of 32 teams don’t run that philosophy because the center runs the system.”
The dialogue was honest and at times humorous. Cecil took time to thank Robert Kraft and Belichick for employing his son, but also referred to the Patriots coach as “Dollar Bill” throughout.
They saved most of their criticism for media that relies on unnamed sources and the fact one Boston radio host criticized him dancing during practice. He also bristled at suggestions that Jones was capable of teaching him how to play the position.
Cam himself said he was enjoying having some free time in September for the first time in his life and was spending it picking his kids up at school and cooking them dinner. At 32 though, he doesn’t think he’s done playing football.
“There’s not 32 guys out there better than me,” Cam said. “Let’s be honest.”
He looked like a guy who was always the first picked player on every team he ever played on — high school All-America, junior college national champion, Heisman winner, first pick overall, MVP … processing not being wanted for the first time in his career.
“Did it catch me by surprise being released?” Cam said. “Absolutely.”
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