Mike Florio: Patriots take 'leap of faith' by signing Cam Newton

Mike Florio: Patriots take 'leap of faith' by signing Cam Newton

"This was one of those nights where you stop everything you're doing... to do a video. About Cam Newton."

Like many football fans, NBC Sports' Mike Florio was enjoying a relaxing summer weekend when news broke about one of the biggest bombshells of the 2020 offseason: The Patriots had signed Cam Newton.

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So why would New England take a chance on the former MVP, who's just a .500 QB over the last four seasons?

"The Patriots took a leap of faith in reliance upon representations from Cam Newton's agents that he's healthy, because they understand how determined he is to prove himself," Florio said Sunday night. 

Florio also called a healthy Newton "one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL," but that's the ultimate question: Is he healthy? The 31-year-old's reported incentive-laden, one-year contract is a chance for him to reclaim his MVP form from 2015, especially after a Lisfranc injury limited Newton to just two starts over the last 18 months.

For Florio, one factor that could have played into the Newton-Patriots marriage is the longtime Panthers QB's track record in games against Bill Belichick's crew over the years. In two meetings, Newton racked up seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing) and one interception along with a QB rating of 128.2 (his best vs. any NFL opponent) and a perfect 2-0 record.

And now that Newton is a Patriot, he'll enter a quarterback room that includes Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, Brian Lewerke, and J'Mar Smith. Only two of those quarterbacks were drafted — and only one was drafted No. 1 overall.

"With the deal being done more than a month before camp opens, he'll have ample opportunity to learn the offense, get ready to go, and prove that he's a better option for Bill Belichick, post-Tom Brady, than Jarrett Stidham would be. It will make a 2020 season even more intriguing. Hopefully we will have one."

Whether or not Newton wins the starting job, it adds a fascinating storyline to monitor as we count down to the 2020 season.

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

The New England Patriots already have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season, and few would blame Bill Belichick -- the oldest head coach in the league at 68 -- if he made a similar decision.

So, did concerns about COVID-19 lead Belichick to consider not coaching in 2020? It doesn't appear so.

"I feel very good about the environment that we're in," Belichick said Friday in a video conference with reporters. "I feel fine."

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Belichick also confirmed no coaches on his staff have backed out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots are in the "acclimation period" of training camp, with players going through non-padded walk-throughs outside Gillette Stadium as they ramp up for their first padded practice on Aug. 17.

According to Belichick, the players and staff in the building feel confident in their safety so far.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I think my impression is that as an organization, as a coaching staff, the support people, the players -- there's a comfort level with what we're doing and who's doing it and how we're doing it, and we're being productive," Belichick said.

"So, if concerns or problems come up, then we'll address those. But right now, I think it's a good working environment. We're getting a lot done."

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The Patriots, like every other team, have to follow rigorous safety protocols that include frequent COVID-19 tests, temperature checks and physical distancing measures. That "new normal" will take some getting used to, but Belichick believes the protocols have helped create an environment that coaches and staff feel safe in.

"The organization has taken a lot of steps to ensure everyone's safety and opportunity to do their job and do it safely and do it productively," Belichick said. 

"Certainly there's a lot of responsibility on each one of us to do things in a way that doesn't affect others negatively, that we take the proper precautions that we can and should, so that's what we're doing."

Mohamed Sanu shouts out Cam Newton in Patriots practice Instagram post

Mohamed Sanu shouts out Cam Newton in Patriots practice Instagram post

Mohamed Sanu finally doesn't have to fly across the country to work out with his new quarterback.

The New England Patriots began Phase 1 of training camp this week by hitting the practice field as a team outside Gillette Stadium.

That means Cam Newton joined his Patriots teammates in an official capacity for the first time, and Sanu seems pretty excited about having his new quarterback in the building.

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Here's the Instagram shout-out Sanu gave Newton Thursday on Instagram via a photo of the two in Patriots gear at training camp:

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Beannnn & Ace booogie wit da hoodie

A post shared by Mohamed Sanu Sr. (@mohamedsanu) on

Sanu and Newton teamed up for informal throwing sessions in Los Angeles just days after the 31-year-old quarterback signed with the Patriots in free agency and appeared to develop a strong connection.

Like Newton, Sanu has a lot to prove this season after an ankle injury plagued his 2019 campaign with New England. The 30-year-old sprained his ankle in his second game with the Patriots last season after a midseason trade from the Atlanta Falcons and caught three passes or fewer in his final six games of the season.

Sanu projects to be the Patriots' No. 2 wide receiver this season behind Julian Edelman, so if he can stay healthy, he could go a long way in helping Newton and the Patriots finding success this season despite a wave of player opt-outs.