Heading into the New England Patriots’ final game of the 2020 season, there was some speculation whether or not it would be Cam Newton’s last with the team. The impending free agent may or may not be on his way out, but he would not comment on what is or is not in store for him heading into the offseason.
Newton was asked if he would anticipate being back in New England in 2021 and did not give much of an answer. He did refer to his time with the Patriots as a blessing, though.
“I have my desires. I know where my heart’s at,” the 31-year-old said following the Patriots’ 28-14 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday. “I know the things, who I am. But as far as that, I can’t really speak on it right now. But just my whole time here in New England has been a blessing. I’ve learned so much about myself, about great teammates, unbelievable coaching. Yeah, so I just see how it goes, go from there.”
Newton originally arrived in New England over the summer, signing a one-year free agency deal to compete for Tom Brady’s former starting quarterback role. The long-time Carolina Panthers passer did indeed win the job over Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, and ended up starting 15 of his new team’s 16 games (he missed one after a positive Coronavirus diagnosis).
During those games, however, Newton struggled to adapt to the new system and a mediocre-at-best supporting cast. While he did end the season on a positive note by throwing three touchdowns and completing 21 of 30 pass attempts for 242 yards, he failed to consistently elevate the Patriots’ offense.
Accordingly, the team might be headed into a new direction in 2021. Nothing appears to be set in stone just yet — a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicating that a split was expected to happen was later seemingly retracted by Schefter himself — but with Newton’s contract expiring in March, there is a chance he has played his last down with the team.
Regardless of what lies ahead, Newton was reflective on Sunday.
“I think one of the main things for me this year was a small but yet important thing for me, just to finish healthy,” he said. “I think that was one of the most frustrating things for me, was that I was healthy but still not getting the results that I was yearning for. Through it all, my shoulder held up, foot held up, mental held up. I had nicks and bruises, but who doesn’t have any nicks and bruises in the NFL? Nothing lingering enough to stop me. I’m going to take that as a blessing and do it in the offseason.”
While Newton did take some positives from his first season with the Patriots, he also acknowledged the need to play better football.
On the season, Newton completed 242 of 368 pass attempts for 2,657 yards as well as an 8-to-10 touchdown-to-interception split. He also added 592 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries — solid numbers but not enough to help the Patriots’ struggling offense evolve over the season to eventually win more than seven games.
“I need to get better. That’s what it all comes down to,” said Newton after arguably his best statistical outing of the season. “For me, I’m such a stickler about, ‘Did you win? Did you win?’ It doesn’t matter what the statistics were, ‘Did you win, find ways just to win?’ Having a game like today is good, but you wish you would have had more games like this. ...
“We play this game to win, but our season is done. We got the talent in that locker room to be still playing for a playoff berth, making a deep run in the playoffs. That’s the realization of things. You know what we can possibly do. You know what we’re capable of. We just didn’t show it enough this year. But yet through it all, we did finish strong today.”
Newton is among 23 Patriots who are scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in March. Also in that group is Brian Hoyer, meaning that Jarrett Stidham is the only New England quarterback currently under contract for 2021.