10 things we learned from Cam Newton’s appearance on the ‘I Am Athlete’ podcast
Newton says 'hell yes' to a possible New England return, but was honest about what it's like playing for Bill Belichick.
Cam Newton had his most candid conversation yet about his first season as a member of the New England Patriots in an appearance on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast. In a discussion with former NFL receivers Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson, plus former running back Fred Taylor, Newton detailed the struggles he faced joining a new team and dealing with COVID-19.
Newton also shared what it’s like to play for Bill Belichick, comparing stories with Johnson and Taylor, who each spent a short amount of time in New England. Newton, in addition, discussed free agency and where he’d like to play next season.
Here are 10 takeaways from the conversation.
Newton is open to a return to New England.
Much of Newton’s discussion with Marshall, Johnson, and Taylor focused on Newton’s first year in New England. While the three were discussing some of the challenges of playing for the Patriots, Newton was asked if he would want to return to the team.
“Yes, hell yes,” Newton said. “I’m getting tired of changing, bro. I’m getting to a point in my career where I know way more than I knew, last year.”
Johnson brought up that if Newton does return, the Patriots have to bring in better receiving options. Newton appeared to acknowledge that, but he also thinks having a year under his belt with the current receivers helps a lot.
“Now, you give me what you just said? Even that, a system with me. Like, they know me,” Newton said. “Doughboy (N’Keal Harry) knows me. Jakobi [Meyers] knows me. Bud (Damiere Byrd) knows me. The young tight ends know me. The younger guys that are going to come in know me. Like, we’re still trying to flush out the 20 years of how it used to be. And I’m going in and I’m saying, ‘That’s not me.'”
Marshall followed up with a couple of questions.
“Is there a chance you’ll return to New England?”
“There’s always a chance for everything,” Newton said.
“I can’t say that,” Newton said before laughing, acknowledging that he doesn’t want to share any potential negotiations he’s having.
He believes Bill Belichick is the most misunderstood person in sports.
If you listened to Newton’s press conferences throughout the season, you would gather that he is a fan of Belichick. He confirmed that again in the podcast.
“I think Bill Belichick is the most misunderstood person in all of sports,” Newton said. “He dope as s—. He dope as s—. Like, he is a cool dude. He understands the game. He’s a historian of the game. Just for you to sit and chat with him. It’s like, ‘Damn.’ He’s going back and he’s got film teaching the game.”
Marshall brought up how Belichick is sometimes perceived to be a “cold” towards players. Newton refuted that.
“Nah, Bill’s not cold,” Newton said. “Josh [McDaniels] isn’t, either. Nobody’s on that team where you have an aura where you don’t wanna be around him. Everything is geared to win. And if you’re not built for that, that’s not the place for you. That’s not the place you want to lose, either. I learned that the hard way.”
He still feels he can play at a top level.
Toward the end of the podcast, the conversation started to steer towards retirement from football. Taylor cited a report that Newton could retire if the options he wants aren’t there. Newton refuted that, saying he “can’t go out like that.”
Marshall brought up the arm injuries Newton’s dealt with in recent years and asked him if he still thinks he can be “Superman.”
“Hell yeah. F— yeah,” Newton said with a smile. “I understand (why you’re asking). You’re doing your job. Hear me out, I hear all that (criticism). I ain’t never been a favorite.
“You only have a certain amount of options. Given the hand I was dealt. Last year, [they were asking] ‘Is he healthy?’ I just wanted to finish healthy. Now it’s like, ‘Am I able to learn a system?’ Like, c’mon bro. I can’t go out like that. My pride won’t allow me to do that.”
Near the start of the conversation, Newton revealed he currently weighs 250 pounds (which is five pounds more than his current listed weight) and wants to lose 20 pounds this offseason.
He said the only COVID-19 symptom he dealt with was a loss of smell.
Newton’s time in New England started off well. The Patriots were 2-1 and in the one loss, he threw for 397 yards.
Just days before the team was set to face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, arguably the turning point of the season occurred. Newton tested positive for COVID-19. The news was a shock to him.
“I got the phone call at 5 in the morning. It was Saturday, so I didn’t need to be up that early,” Newton said. “Usually, everybody knows the football schedule, Saturdays are just walkthroughs. We got a later start time, and when the phone call came, I thought I was dreaming. The athletic trainer called me and told me I tested positive. I didn’t even know what to think. My cousin, who serves with me as my assistant, was with me at the time and it was a matter of time (before he got it) because we live together.”
Newton thought he may have had a false positive at first because he didn’t feel any symptoms until his cousin brought something up to him.
“The only thing I would say that really hit me was my smell. I really couldn’t smell. I didn’t realize that until my cousin brought it to my attention. I was like [sniffs], ‘Man, I really can’t smell.’ It didn’t dawn on me that I lost my smell. But if I had to fingerprint to something, that was it.
He shared how COVID-19 affected his play.
While Newton said the only symptom of COVID-19 he dealt with was the loss of smell, there were effects he dealt with when he returned to the field.
In sharing how he felt upon his return to the team, Newton compared it to being part of a long-distance road trip with several other cars and being the lone car in the group to leave the highway to get gas, only to return to find everyone’s driven away.
“By the time I came back, I didn’t feel comfortable…skillfully,” Newton said. “And a lot of that discomfort came pre-snap. I’ve always valued my talents as something that’s an improv. Like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a play. I know how to make a play.’ In this system, it dictates by certain things and working with Josh [McDaniels] and [quarterbacks coach] Jedd [Fisch] at the time.
“Throughout those times, there was times where it was just like, ‘Hold on, set 180. Wait am I supposed to, set 1-8-what? Hold on.’ I was thinking too much. Going back to that analogy, the offense kept going and I was stopped and stagnant for a week, two weeks. By the time I came back, it was new terminology. I was like, ‘Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Let’s go back to No. 1.’ I wasn’t trying to learn the system for what it was. I was learning a 20-year system in two months.”
He defended Josh McDaniels numerous times.
As the group went step-by-step in recounting Newton’s season, one of the first things they brought up was his performance against the Seahawks. In that game, Newton had a chance to run the ball in for a touchdown at the 1-yard line as time expired to give the Patriots the win. However, the Seahawks stopped him.
Marshall stated his displeasure for the call, calling it ‘terrible” because they “did it the last two, three, four times in a row.”
Newton was quick to step in to defend his offensive coordinator.
“I can’t let you do that,” Newton said. “Mickey D’s (McDaniels), that’s my dog.”
“Here’s the thing about football. Here’s the thing about sports, about analysis and critics,” Newton later added. “Looking back at it, of course. If it had worked, then you’re asking Pete Carroll how could you not stop this play. We ran it numerous times. If you’re playing the Lakers, you know who’s about to get the ball. If you playing Golden State. Chicago, back when. So for me, I’m like if the ball with anybody else, it was a sin. That’s just my theory. That’s just my thinking.”
Marshall’s criticism of McDaniels didn’t end there. Marshall recalled his time in Denver, where McDaniels was his head coach for a season. He voiced how he disliked McDaniels’s use of him and how he believed McDaniels was running a poor version of “The Patriot Way.”
“He’s not baby Bill without Bill. He has his own way,” Newton said in response to Marshall.
Newton also defended his receivers.
When the four men were talking about the personnel and schemes McDaniels runs in his offense, Johnson brought something up about the Patriots’ receivers from this past season.
“You know what else I don’t like? No disrespect to the personnel in New England, I wish you had some dogs (better receivers) with you, offensively,” Johnson said. “A security blanket (to throw to), like a Brandon Marshall.”
Newton made a confused look before sipping out of his wine glass.
“It’s not to say that they weren’t or that they can’t be (good),” Newton said.
“There’s levels though (in terms of receiver talent),” Johnson replied.
“Since we’re being honest, yes,” Newton said. “I do think, Doughboy I call him, N’Keal Harry, he was battered [as Newton pointed to his head]. You know what I’m saying?”
He gave us his definition of ‘The Patriot Way.’
After sharing that he believed Harry was “battered,” Newton gave his definition of “The Patriot Way” and how it affects players in the franchise.
“There’s a real thing when they say, ‘The New England Way.’ ‘The Patriot Way,'” Newton said. “It’s an aura where you’re a machine, literally. When I did one of the games, I gave them my routine. I’m waking at 4:20 a.m. just to get out of the house by 4:45 a.m. I already have my outfit picked out, I’m going to be fresh.
“I’m walking into the facility at 5:15, 5:20 a.m. At the same time, you’ve got to compartmentalize your feelings, compartmentalize your personal life, compartmentalize everything to enhance your mental stamina. It doesn’t matter if it’s 8 o’clock at night, we have to watch film. We have to get certain things done. We all know who I was behind. I wanted to make sure I gave everybody confidence knowing I was doing everything right. It already came natural.”
He acknowledged replacing Tom Brady was ‘the hardest job in the f—— country,’ but didn’t have any other option.
After Newton detailed the hard work he put into to fit in with “The Patriot Way,” Taylor wanted to point something out on how he arrived in New England.
“You took the hardest job in the f—— country, following Tom Brady,” Taylor said.
“I did, but hear me out though,” Newton replied.” What other options did I have? Since we’re being a bean, what other options did I have?
“I intimidate a lot of people. And honestly, I intimidated the franchise I was at. Let’s keep it a bean. Let’s keep it a hundred. Everybody’s not used to knowing who they are and not being moved or bothered by it, right? And for me, that’s where I stand up the most. A lot of people look at me from afar and say, ‘He’s flamboyant. He’s this. He’s that.’ I want you to think like that. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m a finesser. I’m a chameleon. I know how to make a way.”
Newton later added that, “By the time I got released, the only place that made sense for me, for my career, was New England.”
Belichick’s favorite word is ‘moron.’
Newton said he didn’t have much trouble integrating himself into New England, citing his work ethic. However, he did notice that the communication between players and coaches in the Patriots’ organization is a bit more confrontational than other places he’s played.
Taylor knew the confrontational style, too.
“Were you ever considered a moron? That’s Bill’s favorite word,” Taylor said. “His favorite saying is ‘You’re a f—— moron.’ Everybody’s a f—— moron (to Belichick). I ain’t no f—— moron. It’s his favorite word, but I was never [a moron].”
Johnson said he would’ve done “nothing” if Belichick had said that to him and recalled how he saw Belichick and Brady “going at it cussing each other out on the field,” in his first day.
Newton said the style isn’t who he was but grew accustomed to it.
“I sense a lot of things that weren’t me. I’m not an argumentative person. I’m like, ‘Coach, let’s figure it out.’ That example you used, that’s normal every day. Like arguing, that’s how the competitive drive. That’s how they communicate.”
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