Cam Newton has had a marvelous career so far. A former first overall draft pick, he led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl, was voted to three Pro Bowls, and became the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2015.
Entering his eleventh season in the league and second with the New England Patriots, however, he is well aware that he needs to prove himself.
“At times, I do remind myself, ‘People forget who you are, and what you’ve done.’ So, now I’m in a position where I need to be my best self. It’s really put-up or shut-up time,” Newton said during an appearance on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin show on Thursday.
Newton first arrived in New England last summer to compete for the starting quarterback gig in Year 1 after Tom Brady. He did beat out Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, and established himself as a locker room leader on the new-look team. However, Newton struggled to adapt to his new system under challenging circumstances.
Joining the Patriots without the benefit of an offseason or preseason competition, and playing with one of the worst receiving groups in football, he finished as one of the statistically worst passers in the NFL. Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes and played a prominent role as a ball-carrier, but he also threw for only 2,657 yards and finished his first year in New England with an 8-to-10 touchdown-to-interception rate.
Despite those challenges, Newton kept the starting position and continued to play a vital role in the locker room. He also looks back fondly on his time with the franchise so far.
“For me, the Patriots’ organization has been impeccable,” he said. “My time there has been everything I could have asked for. I guess it’s now time for me to uphold my end of the bargain, through and through.”
While Newton said all the right things and has earned the respect of those inside the building, the NFL is a production business. The Patriots know it and the 32-year-old knows it as well.
Accordingly, the team selected quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall position in this year’s draft. The first-rounder is expected to push Newton for the starting gig this summer, and while the incumbent is the favorite to win he knows it all comes down to production.
“Nothing is going to matter until July 22,” he said, referencing the quarterbacks’ reporting date. “Then as training camp goes forward, everybody is going to start seeing, ‘What’s the work that’s been put in? Has he been in the playbook? Does he really understand? Is his comfort what he says it is? Is he in good shape? Is his shoulder holding up? Is his foot holding up?
“We play in a sport that is strictly based off the final product. And the final product is on game days. With that being said, it’s just going to come down to winning and losing.”