Cam Newton on how COVID-19 affected Patriots’ team-building, why he isn’t planning to retire

"Hey, come on now. I can't go out this. I definitely can't go out like this."

Cam Newton interview
Cam Newton during the Patriots-Dolphins game. –AP Photo/Doug Murray

While the Patriots were officially eliminated from postseason contention thanks to Sunday’s 22-12 loss to the Dolphins, Cam Newton is still focused on playing as hard as possible in the final two games of the 2020 season.

“Just want to create great habits, and that’s what it’s just all about,” Newton said on Monday his weekly WEEI interview on “The Greg Hill Show” about the rest of the year.

Amid the team’s disappointing 6-8 record — the first time New England won’t win at least nine games since 2000 — Newton still sees hard work from his teammates, only it hasn’t been rewarded with wins.

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“You have a lot of guys, a smorgasbord of guys in that locker room who are really doing a lot for us and committing themselves,” said the Patriots’ quarterback. “It’s just not turning into wins, and that’s the unfortunate thing. But yet you still have do your job, you still have to be a professional and come in with a positive, sound mind to be your best for this team.”

Still, the 31-year-old was willing to discuss the season as a whole — with its many ups and downs to this point — during a lengthy discussion.

Here are a few other takeaways from Newton’s interview:

He explained a postgame comment.

Following the loss on Sunday, Newton referenced that the team still has “guys that don’t get it.”

Asked about what he meant, Newton was initially hesitant about elaborating.

“Listen, I said a lot of things, but for just the society that we live in, you harp on the things that maybe have a negative [connotation], and I’m not going to feed into it,” Newton reasoned. “It may have come off in a bad way, but I just don’t want to go into it.”

Eventually, after getting a follow-up question, Newton weighed in.

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“It’s not as negative as it sounds, and let me correct myself on that because we’re depending on a lot of people who are not used to the — let’s just be honest — just the pressures of being a New England Patriot player,” said Newton.

“If I’m being honest and candid, I’m one of those players,” he added. “It took me after probably like Week 5 to realize, ‘Bro, this is different.’ And not different in a way that’s bad, or different in a way that’s good, it’s just different of a way of responsibility.”

His comment, Newton rationalized, was more directed at players not being able to see the whole picture, beyond the wins and losses.

“It’s just normal being a young or even an old player to not really be able to digest the whole situation at hand, and like I said, I’m learning it each and every day. It’s just something that you have to get used to.”

The former NFL MVP later clarified one part of his answer.

“It’s not necessarily the pressure, it’s the standard,” Newton said of playing in New England. “That’s something that I’ve always respected about the Patriots and now being a part of it. It’s something that you have to get on the train sooner rather than later and engulf yourself in understanding what that means.”

Ultimately, he took responsibility for the team’s underachievement, and not being able to be at his best when the team needed him most.

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“That’s a thing that I haven’t done enough this year,” Newton admitted, “and that’s something that I keep in my memory bank for the challenges moving forward.”

On how COVID-19 altered the season.

After alluding to the negative effect COVID-19 had on the team’s early-season momentum, Newton was asked a another question about the pandemic.

“I think my only regret about COVID is this: I’m a very social person, I’m a social peer, I’m a social teammate, I’m a social human being,” Newton explained. “It’s one thing to know a person on the football side, and I always use the analogy that COVID affected our team in a way to make a lot of us feel like associates, or coworkers, rather than really feeling like a team at times.”

In Newton’s mind, the largest COVID-19 ramifications for team building were away from the field.

“If this was not the case,” Newton said of the COVID guidelines, “obviously you can have guys over. You can really find out the personal side.”

“We didn’t have opportunities to kind of break bread and say, ‘Hey bro, every Thursday, a different player on the team is going to host Thursday night football. Hey bro, let’s go on a dinner date with the wives or the girlfriends or the X, Y, Z,'” Newton pointed out. “Things that I’m used to doing.'”

Though he admitted that he was no different than other people trying to adhere to pandemic-related restrictions, Newton still noted that the inability to be close to teammates after he signed — or have a regular preseason — limited a team-bonding element that he values.

“If I had one thing that I could just go back and change, I would’ve changed that,” said Newton of forming initial Patriots relationships. “Not being able to really connect with people early on because of the limitations that COVID presented.”

“The best thing about football isn’t the games, it’s the locker room environment, it’s what the plane’s like after wins coming from the West Coast or coming back home and guys are just playing cards,” Newton later added. “We can’t even do that because of the COVID rules, so it’s crazy.”

Looking towards the rest of the season and beyond.

With two games remaining in the 2020 regular season, but no possibility of a playoff run,  there’s a chance that the Patriots look to backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham to help evaluate for the future.

Newton refrained from answering if he thought he would continue as the starting quarterback, pointing out that since he’s on a one-year contract, it’s all still a “job interview” for him.

“I’m going to leave it up to the people who I’ve been leaving it up to since day one,” Newton said. “I’m not going to get caught up into it, nor feed into that knowing that I’m still on a job interview, to be honest with you. It’s my job to put the best version of me on film, and that’s what I plan on doing.”

That said, the former No. 1 overall pick did dispel one possible rumor. Newton is not retiring.

“No I’m not there,” Newton replied when asked if he thought 2020 might be his last NFL season. “One of my goals for this year — for what it’s worth — was just to finish the year healthy and this year God has granted me and given me the opportunity to play a healthy season. Yeah I still have a lot of football left and I still want to play football, and I have the urge to be better.”

“After putting down this film?” Newton added, jokingly. “Hey, come on now. I can’t go out this. I definitely can’t go out like this.”

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