Jarrett Stidham may feel like he has a chance to be the starting quarterback in New England. Bill Belichick may be looking forward to having an open competition at that position. But if Cam Newton really feels the way he says he does, the decision could be closer to final than anyone is willing to admit at the moment.
Asked if he'd be restricted at all by his surgically-repaired right shoulder, Newton replied in no uncertain terms.
"At this part point in time, sir," he said, "I'm a full go."
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Newton needed to go under the knife in both 2017 and 2019 to fix up his shoulder. The most recent procedure came in January of last year, after a midseason hit to his right side in 2018 mangled the upper portion of his arm, impacted his delivery, and waylaid his performance in a season when through eight games he was near the top of the league in a number of statistical passing categories.
It was a foot injury in the summer of last year that limited him to just two games played in the regular season. That led to surgery in December.
But almost a year removed from the foot issue, and 18 months removed from his most recent shoulder procedure, Newton told reporters on Friday that he has made his way to New England in very good health. After fighting through injury for each of the last two years, he may be closer to the Newton that beat up on the Patriots back in 2017 than anyone realizes.
"Just right now, for me, this season's not here yet so I do still have time," Newton said. "Working with the training staff here as well as having all the outlets at your disposal to get better and to be as confident come opening day, or when the team may need you, I think that's the most important thing.
"As far as how I feel right now, I feel amazing. I feel great. Not any different than any other person in that locker room right now so I'm extremely optimistic about that. Through it all, it's just putting yourself in position to be in the best shape and having your body in the best possible situation when you actually need it."
Though he used words like "amazing" and "great" to describe his health, it sounded like Newton wanted to hedge a bit. Perhaps even he knows there's a lot that can happen between now and the start of the regular season when it comes to his well-being. After all, last time he got hurt badly was on the Gillette Stadium turf, trying to avoid a hit early in a meaningless preseason game.
But for now he's healthy. And he's motivated. Some of that is inherent. He didn't necessarily need to be released by the team that drafted him, he didn't need to linger on the free-agent market for months to experience the sensation propelling him forward in this new chapter of his career.
"I don't have to prove nothing," he said. "Especially not to nobody. I have to prove to myself. That's a daily challenge. I don't think nobody's expectations will ever surpass my expectations for myself. I'm just looking forward to the challenge.
"Knowing, picking up this whole system, not only the philosophical way of the offense but also how things are ran. This is a new team. I've only been geared by one particular team and one particular city. Now moving to a whole nother residence has kind of put the onus on trying to adapt. That has been the rather interesting part."
Still, there is a part of Newton -- a part that he's not afraid to show on social media -- that wants to let people know he's ticked.
The Panthers get some, though he said he wishes them "nothing but the best," because he's been uprooted. The rest of the league gets some because it allowed players like Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton to sign before him (and for more money). But he's using that as "fuel," he explained.
"Look, I wake up mad," he said. "Know what I'm saying? The fact that I'm not able to see my kids on a regular basis, that's what makes me mad. At the end of the day, for me, I'm not gonna dwell on the past. I'm a self-motivator. Even though the past is the past, I'm not gonna keep looking back."
That approach usually plays for Belichick and the Patriots. If it's the one Newton will carry with him to his new team, and if he's healthy, then odds are he'll be playing too.