In a year where everybody has had to get used to things looking a little different than they normally do, the New England Patriots are no exception. Tom Brady, Don’t’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins highlight just some of the team’s absences since their Wild Card Weekend loss to the Tennessee Titans.
When Brady made the divorce official and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it seemed all but certain that the keys to the castle were going to be handed to 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham. After not drafting another quarterback in April and only brining in Brian Hoyer to compete, Stidham was the clear choice – until June 28.
As Bill Belichick has done so often, on June 28 he lit the football world on fire by bringing in a former superstar on the cheap as a reclamation project. Whether it be Reggie Wayne, Stephen Jackson, Josh Gordon, or more recently Antonio Brown, Belichick is not afraid to take a shot in the dark if he can get a player on his terms. This offseason he took a stab at 2015 MVP Cam Newton to compete with Stidham to be Brady’s successor.
The media immediately questioned the fit of Newton – who plays as much energy and flash as anybody in the NFL – and Belichick whose buttoned-up, team first mentality has taken him to six Super Bowl titles in New England. To the chagrin of some Boston media the “Cam Newton experience” appears to be seamless to this point. Newton even went as far to say that he and Belichick have been a “match made in heaven” in a recent interview on WEEI.
In this same radio appearance Newton gave his two cents as to why the pair seemed so unlikely at the time of the singing.
“Honestly? We going honest?” asked Newton. “It’s because I’m a black athlete … I’ve been unapologetic, carried myself in a way that the media hasn’t gave me my just due.”
The issue of racism in Boston sports has been looming over the city since the days of Tom Yawkey with the Red Sox and Bill Russell with the Celtics. More recently former MLB players Adam Jones and Torii Hunter have come forward to explain the negative experiences they’ve had in Fenway Park. Hunter even noted that he negotiated a no-trade clause to the Boston Red Sox in every contract he signed.
Newton may not have been accepted the fan base or the media at first, but he’s done everything he could to try and win over the hearts of New England.
Bill Belichick held back praise of Brady following his fourth quarter heroics in the 2018 AFC Championship Game where he came back to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars with 25 stitches in his throwing hand, but when it comes to Cam Newton Bill is loving what he’s seeing.
“Nobody works harder than Cam does,” explained Belichick. “You know, some players like to work on things that they’re good at, like if you’re strong on a bench press, then you just keep throwing more weight on the bench. But Cam is the type of player that works on things that he’s not as good at and really tries to improve on a daily basis and that is something that I really respect about him.
The team’s 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry co-signs with the head coach. Harry noted that he has never seen the newest starting quarterback go directly home after practice. The statement from the wideout supplements what Newton has been sending out on his Instagram stories as of late. Posting himself at the Patriots facility before 6:00 a.m. regularly.
The same day that Belichick named the former MVP the starting quarterback he was also announced as one of the eight team captains which are voted on by the players.
Now that he was won over the locker room and beginning to turn the tide on the fans and media, the team now needs to worry about how he’ll fit on the field. Brady was as traditional of a pocket passer as they come during his two decades in Foxborough; Newton is a bit of a change of pace.
Even though it will be different, a more mobile quarterback may be what Belichick had been looking for in a successor. He’s been on the record while Newton was in Carolina saying how tough it is to defend a player with that much versatility. Defensive-minded coaches like Bill know what is more difficult for a defense to plan for, and a quarterback who can throw, scramble, and run the ball on his own is about as difficult as they come.
While this all sounds great on paper, it won’t be that easy. Although all the reports show that Newton looks to be at 100 percent in camp, he doesn’t have a lengthy injury history. Not to mention that Julian Edelman is his only proven target on the outside.
The Patriots are bracing themselves for a reality check after 20 years of success, but if Newton can stay on the field it could be something fun to watch.