If the New England Patriots want to maximize their offseason spending spree, they either need rookie Mac Jones to rapidly develop into a legitimate NFL quarterback or Cam Newton to play a lot better than he did in 2020.
Newton is betting on the latter.
The 32-year-old knows the pressure is on him after averaging just 177 passing yards per game last season with eight touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. Newton is embracing that pressure, though -- in part by taking a page from NFL greats like his Patriots predecessor, Tom Brady.
"That don’t make me nervous. If anything, it excites me," Newton said Thursday on ESPN Radio's "Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin" show. "I can say a lot of times in my career I haven’t been the favorite. I’ve always been the guinea pig, and yet at the same time, those things are why you play the game. This is why you play the most important position in sports. That’s why I attack the day the way I attack it.
"Aaron Rodgers isn’t who he is because he’s comfortable. Tom Brady isn’t who he is because he’s comfortable. All these elite players aren’t who they are because they are comfortable. You have to feel comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s what it is."
The Patriots will need Newton to be more comfortable than he was in 2020, though. While Brady joined the Buccaneers in March and helped guide Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title, Newton struggled to play catch-up in New England after joining the team in July.
With a full offseason under his belt and fewer COVID restrictions, Newton insisted lack of preparation won't be an issue in 2021.
"I don’t want to get so caught up in promises and things like that, but I can guarantee that there’s been a shift in comfort of knowing more," Newton said. "And I think that’s added value in itself."
That experience could give Newton a leg up in his QB battle with Jones at training camp later this month. And if Newton wins that battle, he'll get to face Brady in Week 4 when the Bucs come to town.
"This is not a me vs. him thing," Newton said when asked about his expectations in succeeding Brady. "As far as I see it, it’s more about what we do, how our approach is moving forward. He is an exceptional talent. We all know that. It needs no debate. For me, it’s controlling the things that I can control, my preparation, my outlook on the game and doing the things that I’m capable of."
We'll start finding out on July 28 whether Newton can back up his comments.