Did you wake up this morning believing Cam Newton would never again take a snap for the Patriots? Did you feel good about that? Then do not watch this.
Because the excellent, insightful, unflinchingly honest I AM ATHLETE interview with Newton conducted by Brandon Marshall, Fred Taylor and Chad Ochocinco will leave “Never Cammers” realizing that, if there’s a chance for Cam to wriggle his way back in, he’s gonna do it.
Taylor, who was with the Patriots for two seasons starting in 2009, asked Newton at one point, “You’re on a one-year deal, would you go back?”
Newton’s reply? “Hell, yes.”
One thing obvious about Newton throughout the interview: Newton is loyal as a Labrador to Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the Patriots.
Even as he acknowledges swimming upstream with cement shoes because of the learning curve and his own positive test for COVID.
Even as he points out he had no other options and had to take the Patriots cut-rate deal.
Even as he admits there were times he would have loved to fire back when being criticized during meetings or getting benched for performance, there’s no whining in it.
My guess is that plenty of people in this news cycle will allege there is whining. That Newton’s making excuses rather than explaining. Here’s one thing to remember in the “excuse vs. explanation” debate. Is the person seeking absolution for what happened? Or is he explaining the factors that led to it and acknowledging his role in them?
Newton does the latter. And he passes on every chance given to rip on the Patriots roster even though there are chances for that, presented by Ocho and Marshall both.
Newton’s most revealing comment about a teammate was when he called second-year wide receiver N’Keal Harry “battered.” The mental and physical toll the Patriots' “Do Your Job/No Days Off” approach is exacting on the 2019 first-rounder really called into question the Patriots' pre-draft evaluations of whether he’d be able to deal with the demands and whether he’ll be able to stick it out for four seasons.
"I'm getting tired of changing, bro," Newton said. "I'm at a point in my career -- I know way more than I knew last year. Now, you give me (a full offseason) -- not even that, a system with me. Like, Doughboy (N'Keal Harry) knows me, Jakobi (Meyers) knows me, Bud (Damiere Byrd) knows me, the young tight ends know me, the younger guys are going to come in.”
So Newton wants the Patriots. Will the Patriots want Newton? The withering response from Rodney Harrison recently when I even suggested Newton as a 2021 option indicates how little regard there is for Newton’s football future.
But there are plenty of indications the Patriots are keeping the door cracked for Newton. Specifically? When ESPN’s Adam Schefter opined before the regular-season finale that the Patriots were moving on from Newton, it caused a huge stir for a few hours.
Belichick has a good relationship with Schefter. When he was presented with Schefter’s opinion after the game, Belichick said, “I don’t think Adam said that.”
Clearly, the two men spoke about how Schefter’s opinion was turned into news. Schefter kept clarifying in the following days. Belichick won’t make sure the record is set straight unless it’s important to him. Otherwise, he relishes the media getting stuff wrong.
Belichick’s loyalty to Newton then and his continual over-the-top salutes to Newton’s leadership, work ethic and personality were evidence Belichick knew Newton was put in a no-win situation and did the best he could.
The way Belichick talked about Newton, you’d think Belichick had nothing but slappy, no-count, work-shirkers playing the spot for the past 20 years.
Is Newton the Patriots' No. 1 choice to return as their ’21 starter? Obviously not or he’d be under contract by now. But if the team doesn’t wind up with, say, a Mariota, Garoppolo, a Bridgewater or someone of that ilk and is left staring at the possibility of Andy Dalton or Alex Smith, the chance that Newton can convince the Patriots to bring him back looms.