Cam Newton took up an interesting hobby after his release from the Carolina Panthers in late March: counting the days of his unemployment. When it officially came to an end earlier this month the former league MVP had counted 86 nights out of a job (a reference to a mixtape by Atlanta-based rapper Future). Needless to say that this free agency experience has left him motivated heading towards the new season, his tenth in the NFL.
Newton, who signed signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots in late June that became official last week, spoke about his time on the open market and his mindset in a recent roundtable that was hosted by former NFL wide receiver Victor Cruz. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley also participated in the discussion and listened to Newton describe his last three months.
“Early on people are getting signed,” said the 31-year-old, who remained unaccounted for through all waves of free agency. “You can’t say I’m old, because people older than me are getting signed. You can’t say it’s about injury, because people who are more injured than me are getting signed. Then you can’t say talent.
“I’ll be the first person to tell you, these last two years I haven’t been putting the best film on tape. That’s just honest. But at the same time there are other people who have been putting shitty film out there that are getting picked up,” he added. “I’m feeling disrespected, because every team at one point had to say ‘Okay fellas, Cam Newton, what are we thinking? Ehhh, pass.’ That’s the disrespect that I feel. It’s not like I feel vindicated to some degree, but I’m going at necks all year.”
After getting selected first overall in the NFL’s 2011 draft, Newton spent nine years as the Panthers’ starting quarterback. Along the way, he established himself as one of the most productive dual-threat quarterbacks the league has ever seen and led the franchise to just its second ever Super Bowl appearance. His outlook heading into the new season is somewhat unclear, however, considering that he will have to adapt to a new environment for the first time in his professional career — and all that without a proper offseason.
Still, Newton has done his best to get up to speed quickly. Almost immediately after signing his contract with the Patriots, he began working out with new teammates Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Devin Asiasi at the UCLA facility in Los Angeles. The workouts were the latest chapter in a story that started with the Patriots exploring Newton as a potential option still remaining on the free agency in June.
“I got a call, my agent hit me up,” Newton said when speaking about the Patriots’ interest in him. “I was working out and he was like, ‘We just got interest from a team.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, cool. Who?’ And he said New England. I said, ‘Hold on, how am I and Belichick going to mesh?’”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may have a different public persona than Newton, but the two do have the same ultimate goal in mind: winning — something that the quarterback pointed out during his talk with Cruz, Beckham Jr. and Gurley; and something that he has in common with the man he might help replace during his first season with the team.
As for Newton, he knows that replacing the legend that is Tom Brady will not be easy. However, he seems to feel confident in his abilities to make things work.
“We have to talk about the elephant in the room,” he said. “You know who you’re coming after? What he was, what he is, is great. There is no need to even talk about it. But one thing about it, though: coach [Josh] McDaniels, you’re able to call some stuff that you have never been able to call now. You’re getting a dog. You’re getting one of these ticked-off dogs, too. And I’m looking at the schedule and I’m like, ‘Who are we playing? That team passed on me! Okay, that team passed on me. They could’ve come and gotten me.’”
Instead, the Patriots were the team to pick up a quarterback who appears reinvigorated by his free agency experience.