The quarterback competition in training camp for the New England Patriots will be the most closely watched roster battle, and all eyes are on Cam Newton.
The former NFL MVP recently signed a one-year contract with the Patriots after being released by the Carolina Panthers in March. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media Friday for the first time since the team signed Newton, and he noted that both sides worked hard trying to figure out if there was a fit.
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"Things worked out. We spent quite a bit of time with Cam. He spent quite a bit of time with us," Belichick said in a video conference call with reporters. "I think there was some mutual interest. We spent quite a bit of -- a number of different people and a number of different conversations. Just trying to see how the fit would be. It was very positive on our end. I’m glad it worked out.”
The Patriots have four quarterbacks on their depth chart: Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and rookie Brian Lewerke. Newton is obviously the favorite to win the job, especially if he's healthy, but Belichick said everyone will get a chance to prove themselves.
"I think that spot is the same as all of the other spots on the team. We've got a long way to go," Belichick said. "We'll see how things turn out. I can't control how players perform -- that's up to them. We'll give everyone an opportunity and see what happens."
The Patriots offense could look quite different this coming season depending on which quarterback wins the starting job. If Newton is the starter, the playbook could feature a bunch of plays that use his athleticism and ability to make huge plays as a runner. Newton averaged 601 rushing yards and 7.25 rushing touchdowns per season over the first eight years of his career.
But at this point in training camp, Belichick isn't focused about tailoring his playbook around certain players. There are basic fundamentals that first need to be learned.
"It's really the same for all positions. You set up a general structure that you implement. Everybody needs to learn certain fundamentals, certain basics," Belichick said. "Every player, no matter how long he's played, whether he's played two years or 20 years, there's still a basic progression to training camp at that player's position. That's really what we're going to do, that's where we're going to start. That's, in my opinion, what needs to be done regardless of who the player is, or what position he plays, whether he's been here for 10 years or this is his first year. There's still a certain process we have to go through, and there are certain fundamentals and basics in our offensive, defensive and special teams systems that need to be taught. It would be very hard for any player to function well without doing those.
"I don't think you start off in training camp putting in a triple-reverse and double-reverse pass, things like that that might highlight a particular player or thing. Those are the kinds of things that come down the road a little bit. In order to be a good football team, you need to be good fundamentally, you need to be sound. Everybody needs to be able to execute basic assignments, techniques and make basic adjustments. Those transcend to everybody in every unit. I don't think there's any way around that. That's what we've always done and will continue to do."