FOXBORO -- Surprise, surprise.
Well, not exactly. Not at all, in fact. Cam Newton has been named the starting quarterback of the Patriots, per a source. The news came down during a team meeting on Thursday morning, making Newton -- who agreed to terms with his new team about two months ago -- the official successor to Tom Brady.
If there was any question as to whether or not his teammates supported the appointment, there shouldn't be.
Newton was also voted in as one of the team's eight captains, which include center David Andrews, running back James White, safety Devin McCourty, corner Jason McCourty, linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and special teams ace Matthew Slater. The Boston Globe's Jim McBride was the first to report that Newton was named the starter.
It took Newton just a few days of Patriots camp to look like the best option to start for the Patriots. An injury to second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham only swung the needle further in Newton's direction. Reduced snaps for Stidham led to Newton getting the lion's share; in one practice, Newton took a whopping 40 snaps in competitive periods while Stidham was limited.
Veteran Brian Hoyer and Stidham essentially split the backup reps for several practices before the "training camp" portion of the preseason ended for the team and reporters were no longer permitted to watch entire practices. While the pair may be more fluent in the language of the Patriots offense, there's little doubt as to which player has the combination of starting experience, football IQ and physical tools to give Bill Belichick's club the best chance to win football games. The regular season kicks off next week when the Dolphins roll into town.
“You know, I can see why he had the kind of success that he had at Auburn and at Carolina," Belichick said while on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week. "In talking to people that were with him there, the things that they said about him, at Auburn and at Carolina from a decade, or two, three years ago, or even last year, it was all the same and it showed up here. He’s an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does. He’s here early. He stays late, and he works very hard.
"You know, some players like to work on things that they’re good at, like if you’re strong on a bench press, then you just keep throwing more weight on the bench. But, Cam is the type of player that works on things that he’s not as good at and really tries to improve on a daily basis and that is something that I really respect about him. That’s not easy for players — really any of us — to do. Look at something that we don’t feel like we’re very good at, or it is not one of our strengths, and put extra time into it. I would say that is a natural tendency to do things you’re good at. He’s worked extremely hard in all those areas.
"He’s got a great personality. He gets along with everybody. He’s very social and has a great presence, whether it is in a small room of a couple people or in a bigger group, and he’s highly competitive. He’s very, very competitive on the field. He always wants to do his best and do better than the guy he’s competing against. You see that from — everybody’s competitive — but I think there are different degrees of it and it looks like I would, based on what I’ve seen, I would put him in the top echelon of that.
"But his competition extends way beyond the field. It is off the field and in meetings and training and so forth. You know, it is important for him to be the first guy up the hill when we run sprints and it is important to him to be first in everything that he competes in and you can see the effort and the amount of energy that he puts into that. I’d say those are some of the things that have jumped out in the month or so that we have been here in person.”
Newton has impressed teammates with his work ethic, arriving at the facility around 5 a.m. -- and "dressed to the nines" Slater told 98.5 The Sports Hub this week -- on a daily basis. Newton was asked last week if he felt like the starter and he said, "absolutely not."
"Every day is a work day for me," he explained. "That label is not important to me right now. There's so much that I need to get better at, so much that I need to learn, so much that I need to get comfortable with throughout this process. That's the last thing that I'm pretty much worried about, knowing that there are certain things when I come to the line of scrimmage and it's just not as firing mentally as I want it to be, rather than other plays that may be called.
"I see, personally, like, Hoyster go to the line and he's just as sharp as can be," Newton said. "For me, asking questions, he answers them. Stiddy [too]. There's things I know I need to become better at. Until I get those things done, everything else is irrelevant."
Newton's grasp of every nook and cranny of the Patriots playbook may still require some refining, but clearly -- after being unemployed for months this offseason and then signing for the veteran minimum in New England -- he's done enough to earn his place among Patriots leaders.