In the two-plus months since signing with New England, Cam Newton has impressed his fellow Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick.
Despite being just 30 when he was released by the Panthers in March, Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, encountered little obvious interest from other teams as a free agent. The shoulder and foot injuries he suffered over the past two seasons, which cost him a total of 16 games, were likely a major factor, but presumptions about his personality may also have been a concern, as the Patriots’ Matthew Slater recently acknowledged.
“Cam has been a joy to be around. He brings positive energy to work every day. He loves his job. He’s just a fun guy to be around,” Slater, a longtime captain of New England’s special-teams units, said (via the Boston Herald). “I’m glad that we’ve gotten a chance to spend some time with him as a teammate and really get to know him."
Belichick said last week of the energy Newton brought to the Patriots’ practices, “I think that’s Cam’s personality."
“Look, all the players on the team, we’re all different,” the 68-year-old coach added. “We all have different personalities and that’s what makes up a team, that diversity of people. … It will be interesting to see how it all comes together. Each team forms its own chemistry. Certainly, Cam is an important part of that.”
“Anybody who knows me knows that it’s all about the vibe that you have to set and you curate,” Newton said last week, “and in essence, we want to change that word ‘vibe.’ It more or less becomes the standard.”
After waiting to see if his market would develop, and also giving himself more time to rehabilitate from foot surgery — an extra complication for teams that couldn’t work out Newton in person because of the novel coronavirus pandemic — Newton agreed to a modest, one-year contract with the Patriots. He can make as much as $7.5 million this season if he hits his incentive clauses.
Newton was already the heavy favorite to win the job and replace Tom Brady in New England’s offense. With Brady moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 years in New England, the Patriots will start the season with a different quarterback for the first time since 2001, apart from when Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.
“We’ve had a lot of great, great players over the course of that time,” Belichick said last week of the Brady era. “You could have the same conversation about all of them: Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Logan Mankins, Rob [Gronkowski]. You could go right down the line. Every team has changes every year. We have them, so does everybody else, and I think right now, everybody’s focused on this year.
“We’re looking ahead, we’re not looking backwards at anything.”
To judge from recent comments by Newton, he’s already bought into the Patriot Way.
“Yeah, we all know what [Brady] was and what it is, and it needs no mention, but yet at the same time, I think I’ve got my hands full with trying to learn as much as I can in a short period of time, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Newton said.