Patriots

Why I want a QB competition between Patriots' Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham

Why I want a QB competition between Patriots' Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham

The Patriots haven't named their starting quarterback for the 2020 season, but a lot of us sure have.

Can we slow our roll and have a little fun with the fact that for the first time in a long time, there's going to be a quarterback competition in Foxboro?

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It's easy to see "Cam Newton" and skip past the "signed for the minimum after going the offseason with no interest" fine print. We shouldn't. How often do you see a guy who signed for the minimum at the end of June handed the keys to the kingdom?  

I think this is going to be a competition, and just as important, I want it to be a competition. When you factor in that Drew Bledsoe's job was safe (or so we thought), there hasn't been a QB competition going into a season for the Patriots in approximately 600 million years. That's barely an exaggeration given how long the last guy was here.  

But now he's gone, and the Patriots have Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Cam Newton and some undrafted free agents. We all know Hoyer and the undrafted free agents are the longest of long shots, but Newton vs. Stidham?

Why shouldn't we take it seriously?

The Patriots clearly like Stidham enough to have skipped free agency and the draft when it came to bringing in an upgrade. Then Newton was available for free in late June, so they signed him because it was a no-brainer.

I think Newton wins the job if he's healthy, but am I just giving it him? Hell to the no, and I don't think the Patriots are, either. Tom E. Curran wrote this the other day:

"From indications I’ve gotten, this will be an open competition. The starter’s job isn’t promised to Newton. Importantly, the sense is that Newton understands that. And the belief is that if he’s not the starter coming out of camp, he wouldn’t pull the ripcord and demand his release so he could latch on elsewhere. Both sides want this to work. Both sides know that work is what it will require."

OK! Come on! There it is!

Newton, who signed for the minimum plus incentives, signed that deal without the assurance that the job was his. That means it's a legitimate competition, and one we should all want to see.

The NFLPA wants there to be no preseason games. I'd usually agree, but this season I want preseason games badly. I want to see what Stidham looks like after a year in the system. I want to see what Newton looks like after a lost season. I want to see them pushing each other.

And what if they both look good?

I want the debate of who you like: The guy with an MVP on his résumé who's going to cost big money if he goes off or the cost-controlled second-year kid they took in the fourth round? And would Belichick want to finally have a hyper-athletic quarterback, or would he prefer the kid who isn't the brand name so he can show the world he can turn another unknown into a star?

I want these questions. I want these discussions. We've been bereft of interesting sports storylines for too long now. Let's not throw a perfectly good one away.

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Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Cam Newton didn't particularly enjoy going unsigned for four months in free agency. But he seems very pleased with where he finally landed.

During his first video conference with reporters since signing with the Patriots last month, Newton shared his first impression of New England. Surprise: it was a positive one.

"I was just blown away by the overall professionalism of the Patriots organization, starting with Robert Kraft, with Coach (Bill) Belichick as well as with (offensive coordinator) Coach Josh (McDaniels)," Newton said. "I do know I was in L.A. (when the Patriots called me) and it kind of caught me by surprise. But at the same time, I enjoyed this whole process."

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Newton has massive shoes to fill after Tom Brady led New England to nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships over the last two decades. He also has a chip on his shoulder playing on a bargain contract with the Patriots after 31 other teams wrote him off this spring due to potential injury concerns.

For all of Newton's confidence in his ability to silence his critics, though, the 31-year-old still finds himself marveling at where he ended up.

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"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Newton has spent about a week at his new workplace as the Patriots continue Phase 1 of training camp at Gillette Stadium. And as he alluded to on Instagram last week, he's fired up about simply pulling into the parking lot.

"It's so surreal coming down 1 Patriot Place each and every day and seeing the whole ambience," Newton added. "Not only that, but seeing so much support around the city of Boston and Foxboro. It's just such a great environment."

Newton is a nine-year NFL veteran with three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but like his Patriots predecessor, a change in scenery appears to be giving him new life.

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."