The New England Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick have always placed a high value on strong locker room leadership.
Players such as Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi or Rodney Harrison played pivotal roles during the early days of the dynasty and in establishing the so-called “Patriot Way.” Others like Matthew Slater, Dont’a Hightower or Devin McCourty later took over and led New England’s locker room over the course of the last decade. Tom Brady, meanwhile, served as the offense’s leading voice for almost 20 years as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
According to Belichick, however, leadership in New England is not limited to those who are voted captains by their teammates. When asked about the team’s group for the upcoming 2020 season during a media conference call on Friday, in particular quarterback Cam Newton, he noted that the designation should not overshadow what others also bring to the table as leaders on his team.
“I think we have a lot of good leaders on our team,” Belichick pointed out. “Some of them have been selected captains. I don’t think that necessarily takes away from the leadership that many other players bring and we get leadership from certainly other players in other areas of our team that don’t show up with the captain designation.”
New England has always received leadership from those who, for one reason or another, were not named captains. Wide receiver Julian Edelman is one current example, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and special teamer Nate Ebner are others. All three of them were vocal and emotional leaders on their respective sides of the ball without ever being selected to captaincy.
“We’ve had a long history and a great roster of captains here, and I think the players selected this year have all displayed very impressive leadership qualities and are obviously well respected by their teammates on both sides of the ball,” Belichick said. “I think they’re all good selections but the leadership certainly extends past those positions, past the captain position. It always has and I’m sure it always will here.”
While Newton tends to stand out among this year’s captains for various reasons — his status as a former league MVP, his oftentimes mischaracterized demeanor on and off the field, his late arrival to the post-Brady Patriots — he is only one of eight players deemed worthy of the honor by their teammates: special teamer Matthew Slater, running back James White, center David Andrews, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, cornerback Jason McCourty and safety Devin McCourty were also voted as captains.
Slater, White, Andrews and Devin McCourty have held the title before, while Guy, Bentley, and Jason McCourty are first-time captains in New England. Newton, who officially joined the Patriots as a free agent pickup in early July, is naturally also a first-timer — at least when it comes to his new club: he was a seven-time captain between 2013 and 2019 while still with the Carolina Panthers.
“The captains are voted on by the team and the players that they elected are the players they obviously want to represent them in various capacities that come with those positions,” Belichick said about the process that turned the eight men into captains for this season, and the responsibilities falling onto the group.
“I appreciate the leadership we get from everyone and I’m looking forward to working with this year’s group that has a couple new faces in it and some other captains that have been here for an extended period of time. It’s a good group, we have already had some opportunities to get together and I look forward to the relationship with those guys in that capacity.”