Cam Newton doesn’t recall the exact moment when his conversations with the New England Patriots began. But the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP knows he was a free agent at the time, and in Los Angeles.
“I was just blown away by just the whole overall professionalism of the Patriots organization,” Newton said Friday on his introductory video conference with reporters. “… I do know I was in LA. It kind of caught me by surprise. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed this whole process.”
Newton, 31, had been released by the Carolina Panthers in March after a season that began with two starts and ended on injured reserve due to a Lisfranc fracture. By the final Sunday of June, he’d agreed to terms with New England on a one-year deal carrying a base salary of $1.05 million and $550,000 guaranteed.
The signing became official 10 days later.
“It’s just a breath of fresh air, to be honest with you,” added Newton, whose deal has a total of $700,000 per-game roster bonuses and $5.75 million in incentives. “A challenge that I have to accept each and every day. But no challenge is ever going to be greater than a personal challenge that I challenge myself. … I think I got my hands full with trying to learn as much as possible in a short period of time, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke are in his company for the initial phase of training camp at Gillette Stadium.
Newton brings 131 career starts, including playoffs, to his new surroundings.
“As far as competing, you compete every year,” Newton said. “It doesn’t matter how much a person’s paid, doesn’t matter how much a person’s experienced, doesn’t matter how much a person knows or doesn’t know. I think we all are competing each and every day, and I’ve been competing every single day. It didn’t matter what the team was, because at the end of the day, you’re one game away, as I’ve learned in this past year.”
The learning continues into this year under quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick.
When asked how that’s meshed, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft grinned.
“Listen, there’s a lot of things that – I’ll just say they there’s a perception,” Newton said. “But at the end of the day, it’s football. I’ve loved it ever since I’ve been here. I’ve been here going on a week now. You hear rumors about certain things. But once you finally get settled in and things like that, none of that really matters. It’s just all about finding a way to prove your worth on a team.”
New England will transition from strength and conditioning to the first official practice of camp on Aug. 12. Full pads will follow no earlier than Aug. 17.
“It’s nothing like just actually finding out through trial and error,” Newton said. “I think one thing that Coach Belichick does do a great job of is setting the tone early. You’re going to know certain things and how it’s done at a sooner rate rather than later.”