Patriots

Cam Newton says Mac Jones didn’t beat him out for Patriots starting job

Newton says he would have stayed as the Patriots backup if asked but adds it would have "indirectly" been a distraction for Jones and the team.

Cam Newton Patriots
Cam Newton. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Former Patriots quarterback Cam Newton teased earlier this week that he had a few things to “get off his chest” about his release from the team.

Among them: he doesn’t think he truly lost the Patriots quarterback battle to Mac Jones.

On a special episode of his “Funky Friday” YouTube show hosted by his father, Cecil, the free-agent quarterback talked about the outcome of the high-profile quarterback competition and the decision to cut him, which he admits “absolutely” caught him by surprise.

Newton provided previously unknown details about his release from the team, saying he learned of his fate around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, August 31 — the day of roster cutdowns. That was around the same time Belichick addressed the media ahead of cutting the roster down to 53 players, suggesting the coach had just come from cutting or was about to cut a player he said was “moving in the right direction.”

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At that time, Belichick and Matt Patricia explained to Newton that they intended to give Jones the starting job — a move Newton said he accepted. Then, they said he would no longer be with the team.

“It didn’t dawn on me [at first]…I was like, ‘Y’all releasing me?'” he said. “I was confused, because Bill was — we all were shocked. It was uncomfortable for everybody.”

Still, the quarterback admitted he “saw signs” the Patriots were thinking of going with Jones as the starter during training camp.

“When I look back at it, I was probably getting two reps to his 10 reps [with the first team in practice],” he said. “That’s why it was starting to make sense. Even though I was starting, that doesn’t mean nothing…I think that’s where they did a good job with disguising it [by giving me the first reps].

“Look at the production in the preseason. I would get the first two to three series. [Jones] would take it from the second quarter all the way into the [late] third quarter, early fourth.”

Jones’s ascendence was already coming before Newton’s ill-fated trip to Atlanta led him to miss five days because of a misunderstanding of the NFL’s COVID procedures. The breach in protocol revealed Newton was unvaccinated and subject to additional testing protocols that, if not followed correctly, could make him unavailable down the line.

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Like Belichick, Newton said his release “had nothing to do” with his vaccination status, further saying he “checked all the boxes” with the COVID protocols for unvaccinated players as he understood them. He acknowledged feeling “bamboozled,” therefore, by the mandated five-day absence because the Patriots cleared the appointment, which he revealed was a checkup on the surgically repaired left foot he suffered a Lisfranc injury to in 2019.

When asked if he would have traveled if he’d known we could have missed that time, he said, “Absolutely not.”

However, Newton doesn’t believe his missing five days of practice gave Jones an additional opportunity to seize the job that the rookie didn’t already have.

“Do I think this would have happened without me being away from the team for five days? Honestly? Yes. It was going to happen,” he said.

Newton also addressed another burning question surrounding his release: would he have accepted a backup role being Jones?

The answer? Yes. But the opportunity didn’t come, and Newton thinks he knows why.

“If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we’re going to give the team to Mac [Jones], you’re going to be second-string; we expect you to be everything and some to guide him throughout this tenure,’ I would have said, ‘Absolutely,'” he said. “But listen, the truth of the matter is this: He would have been uncomfortable.

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“Mac Jones didn’t beat me out. But I would have been a distraction,” the 11-year veteran added, saying his “aura” as a star in the league would have invited questions. “If they would have gave him the starting role, they knew the perception that it would have had if the success didn’t come.”

Newton also bristled at the suggestion by former Patriot and current ESPN analyst Rob Ninkovich that Jones was helping teach the veteran New England’s playbook: “What can he teach me when it’s coming at him faster than it was coming at me?”

He did go on to say he and Jones, along with the other quarterbacks, helped each other in practice and that he’d additionally confer with Josh McDaniels after practice sessions as well.

What’s more, Newton said it took him more time to learn the Patriots’ system because it required him to do more at the line of scrimmage than he was used to in Carolina, where more responsibility was put on centers to identify fronts and set protections than quarterbacks: “You can’t say that [I’m] stupid or ‘Why wouldn’t you know that?’ because half of the NFL, I would say 30 of 32 teams, don’t run this philosophy.” (The fact that Jones ran a similar system to what the Patriots do when he was at Alabama no doubt helped him in this regard.)

That said, the veteran quarterback said he’s not “bitter” about losing the job to Jones and suggested the future is bright for the young quarterback.

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“They’re gonna win football games with Mac Jones,” Newton said. “He’s good enough…He did do what he came to do. He proved that he can be productive. And he will be productive.”

As for his own future, Newton didn’t have any updates about opportunities to keep playing. Though his admissions about being “a distraction” as a backup, as well as his vaccination status can’t be helping his cause for a new job, the former MVP said he’s not retiring and that he believes he still has plenty of football left to play: “There’s not 32 guys out there better than me.”

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