Patriots

How Patriots' Cam Newton, Mohamed Sanu became instant workout partners

How Patriots' Cam Newton, Mohamed Sanu became instant workout partners

It all seemed to happen so quickly.

The New England Patriots came out of the blue two Sundays ago to reportedly sign free-agent quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract. Two days later, Newton was throwing passes to Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu during a workout session in Los Angeles.

So, how did quarterback and wide receiver link up so quickly in this era of physical distancing? According to Sanu's trainer, Drew Lieberman, they got lucky.

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"The day Cam signed, they were FaceTiming each other just talking about how excited they were," Lieberman told CLNS Media's Evan Lazar. "And Cam was like, ‘What are you doing this week?’ Mo said he was going to L.A. for the week, and Cam said, ‘Oh shoot, I’m about to be in L.A. too! Let’s link up.' "

What followed were a series of intense workouts at UCLA in which Newton and Sanu built some notable chemistry, according to Lieberman, a 2013 Wesleyan graduate who founded "The Sideline Hustle" and has worked with Sanu during the last two offseasons. 

"The biggest thing I was looking for wasn’t even football stuff," Lieberman told Lazar. "It was more like how do they vibe together, what was the chemistry like, and what’s the overall energy? That part of it was awesome." 

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Newton and Sanu share plenty in common: Both have ties to Atlanta -- Newton is an Atlanta native, while Sanu spends his offseasons there after playing four seasons for the Falcons -- and both are aiming to bounce back from injuries that required offseason surgery (Newton's foot and Sanu's ankle).

If both players can stay healthy in 2020, the QB and wide receiver could form a potent duo in a Patriots offense that could desperately use a jolt following Tom Brady's departure this offseason.

As for the quarterback who was supposed to take Brady's job? Sanu and Jarrett Stidham "talk almost every day," according to Lieberman, but have yet to meet up for an in-person workout.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps are already in full swing, but there are some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
CB Rashaan Melvin (August 6)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
OT Lucas Niang (August 6)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

T Brad Seaton (August 6)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)

Willie McGinest expects Cam Newton to be Patriots' starting QB in Week 1

Willie McGinest expects Cam Newton to be Patriots' starting QB in Week 1

The leading candidate to start at quarterback for the New England Patriots is Cam Newton, and former Pats linebacker Willie McGinest expects the 2015 NFL MVP to win the job in training camp.

There are four quarterbacks on the Patriots depth chart -- Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Brian Lewerke -- and head coach Bill Belichick told reporters last week that "everyone will get a chance to prove themselves."

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McGinest, who's now an analyst for NFL Network, recently gave his take on the Patriots' quarterback situation.

“Well, they say it’s a competition, but if you are asking my opinion, I expect to see Cam Newton start at the quarterback position," McGinest said Wednesday on WEEI radio show "Dale & Keefe". "If he’s healthy, he’s the guy.”

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One thing Belichick values tremendously is versatility, and McGinest pointed out that Newton brings plenty of versatility to whichever offense he's playing in.

"If you talk to a lot of offensive coordinators and you say, hey, if you had a Cam Newton, what does that bring to your offense? The first thing they'll say is versatility," McGinest explained. "A guy you can do multiple things with within the offense. Cam has beat a lot of people with his legs, and he's had his share of injuries, but he's strong, he's big, he's physical, he can move the pocket. So, now you can incorporate those RPOs, those zone runs, those spread passes. It keeps defenses off-balance. And he can still throw the ball down the field from the pocket and be accurate.

"And he has something to prove. Here's a guy who's pretty much at the bottom of what quarterbacks are making this year and he felt like he was done wrong, so you're getting a guy with a chip on his shoulder that if he's 100 percent healthy, he brings so much to an offense. Josh McDaniels is going to have a field day with designing plays around Newton and the rest of the personnel."

Newton played in just two games last season due to injuries, and a shoulder ailment bothered him for a large portion of the 2018 campaign. If Newton is able to stay healthy and be on the field for a full season, there's no reason why he can't rediscover the form that made him a top 12 to 15 quarterback in the league for much of his career.

And as McGinest pointed out, Newton is highly motivated to play at a high level. You can bet he wants to show that teams passing on him in free agency was a mistake, while also setting himself up for another huge payday next offseason.