‘It’s a business trip’: Cam Newton on motivation, earning respect, and his viral sideline moment

"The fact that here I am in year 10 still having to explain the person and the player that I am, it's sometimes disrespectful because we don't question certain quarterbacks."

Cam Newton Patriots Raiders
Cam Newton during the Patriots' win over the Raiders. –Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Patriots scored a decisive 36-20 win over a hitherto unbeaten Raiders team on Sunday, yet Cam Newton was far from happy with his own performance.

New England’s 31-year-old quarterback went 17-28 in the air, throwing for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 27 yards on the ground. Newton offered some sharp self-criticism during his Monday interview on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” though he was ultimately happy to have a win.

“Yesterday was kind of frustrating in itself,” said Newton. “There will be games like that, and when there are you just have to find a way to win. That’s the optimistic answer. Me personally, lackluster ball security, just a slow start offensively. This is subpar performance, and I know I can play better, I know I can do better, and I know I will be better.”

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The Patriots’ backfield — and a shuffled offensive line given some injuries — provided the bulk of offense, rushing for 250 yards collectively.

“That position group, running backs, just had the light shining on them all day, yesterday, and it showed by the production that they gave us,” Newton said in praise of his teammates.

Here are a few other topics Newton covered in his interview:

He’s still not saying what caused his viral sideline moment.

Amid the Patriots’ win, some sideline humor received the most internet attention on Sunday. Cameras cut to Newton joking with wide receiver N’Keal Harry before he slid off the bench in amusement at something that Harry said.

Newton avoided answering the question during the postgame press conference on Sunday, and again didn’t provide the full context on Monday.

“First off, it was a group project. They just so happened to catch my response to N’Keal,” Newton joked. He “respectfully” declined to explain what was said.

Regarding Harry, a 2019 Patriots’ first-round pick, Newton had more praise.

“N’Keal, a person that I’ve kind of taken under my wing, the fact that he’s playing the kind of ball that he’s playing right now, not just all about catching the football but making plays in the running game as well, for him to be able to have a dialogue on the sideline as a group, it was just fun to have.”

It’s a “business trip” for him right now.

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Newton was asked about his upcoming documentary series, “86 Nights,” which will chronicle the period (86 nights) from when he was released by the Panthers in March until he was signed by the Patriots in July.

For the former No. 1 overall pick (and 2015 NFL MVP), the delay in getting signed after his release continues to serve as a motivational device.

“I’m a person that takes anything to heart,” said Newton. He explained that coming to New England has put his focus completely on football, both in terms of his hopes for a longer career, but also due to short term circumstances.

“This is a business trip,” Newton explained. “The fact that I don’t have my children in Boston with me, and the fact that I haven’t been able to see them regularly, that’s angry in itself for me. I wake up every morning missing the hell out of my children and knowing that if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do then this could be good riddance for me and that’s as serious as I’m making it, and that’s as serious as it is.”

Newton was asked about his family possibly coming up to join him later in the year.

“Sooner or later,” responded Newton. “You know when you have young children and a COVID pandemic, it’s kind of hard. You can’t FaceTime them enough because their attention is similar to mine. They don’t know how to handle the phone and things like that.”

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“That’s one of many different things that you wake up to and ask yourself what’s your purpose,” Newton added. “I’m a very family-oriented person. I’m a very hands-on dad, and people don’t realize that because they’re jaded by the outfits that I wear, they’re jaded by what I say, they’re jaded by the energy on the field, they’re jaded by the football figure of who I am, but yet hopefully the ’86 Nights’ docu-series will kind of highlight there’s more to me than just what you see on Sundays.”

“We don’t have to question Tom Brady.”

Given his lengthy time in free agency despite being only 31, as well as his not-so-distant success in Carolina, Newton continues to draw motivation from the doubts of those both in and around the NFL.

Even after signing with the Patriots, skeptics wondered if he would be able to handle Bill Belichick’s style of constructive criticism. A former teammate of Newton’s (who is also an ex-Patriots player), Kyle Love, openly questioned if the Belichick-Newton partnership would work.

For Newton, it’s yet another frustrating yet motivational aspect of how he’s perceived.

“I was laughing about a lot of things,” Newton said when asked if he found some of the skepticism around his arrival in New England humorous. “I’ve been laughing at a lot in my whole career about the analysis of who Cam Newton really is. And that’s just the honest truth.”

“The fact that here I am in year 10 still having to explain the person and the player that I am, it’s sometimes disrespectful because we don’t question certain quarterbacks,” Newton continued. “We don’t have to question Russell Wilson. We don’t have to question Tom Brady. I hate to name-drop but it’s just gotten to that point.”

For the man who has replaced Brady as New England’s quarterback, he just wants to prove once-and-for-all that he’s someone NFL teams can count on.

“Obviously me being a new face and obviously people are trying to find and dig into certain things, they don’t necessarily know that I’m the ultimate professional,” said Newton. “I’ve never, not once, jeopardized my team as a distraction off the field. I come to work each and every day and try to give [my] team the best opportunity to win.”

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