In a video streamed live Friday on his YouTube channel, Cam Newton shared his unfiltered thoughts on his release from the New England Patriots.
“Did it catch me by surprise, being released? Absolutely,” Newton said in a conversation with his father, Cecil.
During the nearly 45-minute-long video, Newton assessed his performance during his roster battle with Mac Jones, explained the circumstances that led to his five-day absence from the Patriots and offered a glimpse into the conversation he had with head coach Bill Belichick when he was informed of his release.
“I’ve been playing long enough to have got it remotely two years ago with the Panthers, but I never really got that call where, ‘Hey, come to the office,’ ” Newton said. “It was funny, as a matter of fact, to me. I’m laughing at it now. I walked in, and they were like, ‘Oh, hold up, Cam, Cam, Cam. Bill wants to meet with you.’ I’m like, ‘OK, cool.’ But Bill’s office is down here, and they were like, ‘No, he’s in here.’ And that’s when I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, I see what’s going on.’
“When it happened, we went through the meeting, Matt Patricia was there, Bill was there. We greeted each other, and we just started talking. At that time, they told me that they were going to give the reins to Mac, and I was like, ‘OK, cool.’ And it didn’t dawn on me. I was like, ‘Y’all releasing me?’ I was confused, because Bill was — we all were shocked. It was uncomfortable for everybody.”
After Jones, the 15th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, won the starting job, the Patriots chose to release Newton rather than keeping him on as a backup. Newton said he “absolutely” would have accepted a second-string role but that having him on the roster would have been a “distraction” for Jones.
“Mac Jones didn’t beat me out,” Newton said. “But I would have been a distraction knowing that if they would have gave him the starting role, they knew the perception that it would have had if the success didn’t come as they were (expecting). …
“The reason that they released me was because indirectly, I was going to be a distraction without being the starter. … Just my aura. That’s my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton into your facility, when you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are interested by mere factor of who is he. Why does he wear his hair, why does he talk, why does he act, why does he perform? All these questions. …
“So let me be honest with you. If they asked me, would I play behind — they say, ‘Cam, we’re going to give the team to Mac. You’re going to be the second string, and we expect you to be everything and some to guide him throughout this tenure.’ I would have said, ‘Absolutely.’ But listen, the truth of the matter is this: He would have been uncomfortable.”
Newton was the Patriots’ first-string quarterback throughout spring practice and training camp and started all three of New England’s preseason games. But he said he “started seeing signs of change” in the rep distribution between him and Jones.
“It was good,” Newton said of his performance this summer. “From the hand that I was dealt, it was manageable. It was respected. … But yet, needless to say, that time we’re finding out and kind of seeing things (are) different, when I look back at it, I was probably getting two reps to his 10 reps, and that’s why it was starting to make sense. …
“Even though I would start (a practice period), that didn’t necessarily mean nothing, and I think that’s where they did a good job of kind of disguising it. ‘Cam took first-team reps today.’ But they didn’t know the practice structure was the first team goes down, the second team goes back and then a first team comes back, too, and that’s when he was getting his reps. …
“(And) you’ve got to look at the production in the preseason. I would get the first two or three series. He would take it from second quarter all the way into the third, late.”
Newton also said his preseason game plans were “watered down, lethargic, vanilla” and didn’t allow him to show off the full scope of his dual-threat skill set. He did not log a single carry in his three exhibition appearances.
“But let me say this, too: I’m not bitter,” he added. “I don’t want anyone to think that I’m mad. It is business.”
Newton also addressed the COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” that kept him away from the team during a key phase of New England’s quarterback competition. He explained that he traveled to Atlanta on an off-day to receive a “second opinion” on the Lisfranc injury he suffered during the 2019 preseason.
“This had nothing to do with no vaccination,” Newton said. “And let’s just be honest and let’s go back real quick, going back to being away from the team for those five days. (The Patriots) gave me clearance to go. So I don’t want nobody to think that I just went up (on my own). I’m owed a second opinion. That’s just a fact. …
“The trip was necessary because this was the last time I felt that I was going to have an opportunity to get a second opinion. Not to say that the personnel with the Patriots wasn’t coherent in telling me everything that I need to know, but having four eyes on it is better than having two eyes on it, in my opinion. It wasn’t that I was having any issues or pain, I just wanted to do a checkup with the person who in essence diagnosed me with the Lisfranc (fracture). I felt obligated to check back in with a six-month review. Like, ‘This is how I’m feeling. I’m getting a little pain. It’s manageable, but just check it out.’ … I’m just giving you hypotheticals.
“So I crossed all the lines, I checked all the boxes, I dotted all my i’s. And then to find out that I had to sit out, that’s when I kind of felt bamboozled, because y’all told me to go. It wasn’t like, ‘Cam, if you go, you’re taking it up on your own risk now.’ It was not that.”
Newton said he tested negative for COVID while he was away, but NFL rules require players to test at their team’s facility. This protocol breach sidelined Newton for three practices, including a joint practice with the New York Giants. Jones delivered the most impressive performance by either Patriots QB this summer during that joint session, excelling against the Giants’ first-team defense.
“Do I think this would have happened without me being away from the team for five days? Honestly, yes,” Newton said. “It was going to happen. Did it help ease the decision? Yes.”
Cecil Newton said he was “floored” by the Patriots’ decision to cut his son, which he called “a dirty move” and “a sucker move.” Cam Newton said the Patriots are “going to win football games with Mac Jones.”
“But they were going to win them with you, too,” Cecil Newton replied.
“That’s a fact, too,” Cam said. “But I don’t want the audience to think, like, ‘Oh, he’s only saying that because he’s not there anymore.’ No, Mac is good enough. I think when they picked him the selection that they did pick him, they wanted to find out a couple of things, and one of the things they wanted to find out is is he capable of leading this offense to be productive.”
Newton also strongly disputed a report from ESPN’s Rob Ninkovich that Jones was helping him learn the Patriots’ playbook.
“What can Mac Jones teach me?” he asked.
Ten days after his release, Newton has yet to sign with a new team. He believes he still deserves a starting job in the NFL.
“Do I have a lot of football left? Absolutely,” Newton said in the closing minutes of his video. “I’m going to remove all doubt. I said it once, and I’ll say it again. There’s not 32 guys that’s better than me. Let’s be honest. And out of those 32, if given the opportunity that I can show what I can do, it’s going to be what it’s going to be.”