Cam Newton theorized in an interview posted to his YouTube channel Friday that the Patriots released him — rather than keep him to back up rookie quarterback Mac Jones — because his “aura” would cause him to indirectly be a “distraction” in New England.
That theory might be accurate.
WCVB-TV’s Christopher Gasper tweeted Friday that two NFL sources confirmed Newton’s presence, persona and cachet with players made the Patriots view him as a less-than-ideal backup QB behind Jones, and NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport expressed similar sentiments during an “NFL Now” segment.
“It’s 100 percent right,” Rapoport said of Newton’s comment. “I was getting all these texts this morning from people wondering, ‘What does this mean for Cam’s career after these kind of comments? What team would sign him?’ He’s telling the truth. What do you want him to do? Everything Cam said is right. One of the reasons he got released — maybe the main reason he got released — by the Patriots is that when it’s time to hand the team over to a young quarterback, it is his. Essentially give him the team. You can’t do that if Cam Newton is looming, looking over his shoulder.
“Because of the way Cam is, because players still look at him like the rock star MVP that he was, he does have an aura in the locker room. He is still a locker room leader. It would take away from Mac Jones being the starting quarterback. And that’s not an insult to Cam; it’s actually a compliment. And he’s right.”
Newton, who also said he believes the Patriots will win with Jones under center this season, acknowledged he was willing to serve as the backup in New England if Bill Belichick and Co. approached him about such a role.
“Yes, he would have been the backup — I believe that 100 percent,” Rapoport said. “But once you decide that the team is going in a different direction, once you decide that football-wise it needs to be Mac Jones’ job — and I believe Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaches and evaluators, that that was what the decision was based on; it was based on Mac Jones being the better quarterback — then moving on from Cam Newton makes sense, as explained very well by Cam Newton himself.”
Several factors probably played into the Patriots’ decision to anoint Jones the Week 1 starter, including Newton’s 2020 struggles and questions regarding the veteran QB’s vaccination status. Plus, Jones, who New England selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, performed well enough in the preseason to earn the job.
But it was somewhat surprising when the Patriots outright released Newton, who started 15 games for New England last season before re-signing with the team in March. And now, it’ll be interesting to see where he lands, knowing that he’ll bring plenty of media attention to wherever he goes.