At 32 years old, he’s most certainly on the back end of his career. And coming off an inconsistent campaign that raised doubts about his NFL future, Newton clearly faces enormous pressure to make Patriots fans forget about his unforgettably frustrating first year in Foxborough.
But no matter how much time he dedicates to learning the playbook, the chances of Newton becoming Superman again seem slimmer than ever. After all, his body simply isn’t the same. In fact, Newton said so himself in a video in which he revealed the truth about a brutal setback he suffered several years ago that could be responsible for ruining his career.
Cam Newton’s football future hangs in the balance heading into training camp
Let’s just say Patriots fans expected more from Newton in his first year playing for Bill Belichick. Sure, his 12 rushing touchdowns may have been impressive. And his teammates (and coaches) clearly enjoyed his positive presence and attitude during a 7-9 season that featured plenty of low moments for the veteran quarterback. But even Newton’s biggest backers can admit he didn’t come close to living up to expectations in 2020.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound signal-caller struggled to run Josh McDaniels’ system with any semblance of consistency. Although Newton completed 65.8% of his passes, he didn’t look comfortable diagnosing defenses, identifying blitzes, and making quick decisions. A lack of weapons certainly didn’t help, but he played a significant role in the Patriots missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Back on another one-year, incentive-laden deal, Newton faces the most pivotal few months of his NFL career. He has to prove to Belichick that he deserves to start over 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones. And if Newton fails to fend off the talented rookie, that will only emphasize how far he’s fallen from where he was in 2015 when he captured MVP honors.
The former Panthers star reveals the truth about a brutal setback that may have ruined his NFL career
Just a few years ago, Newton looked like Superman. So what happened to that version of the dual-threat quarterback?
According to Newton, everything changed on a single play in 2016.
In a video posted on his official YouTube account that he filmed in September of 2020, he revealed the truth about a fateful day at the office in December 2016 that left him permanently damaged.
“I threw an interception,” Newton said. “I tried to make the tackle, and I tried to push him out, and I extended my arm, and I messed up my AC joint. And ever since then, there’s just been a part of me that’s just been a wounded dog. Like a wounded lion almost. Just, ‘I’m not right.'”
He made another concerning comment in the video that may explain some of his questionable on-field decisions.
“I feel good at times, but when I’m running I still feel it,” Newton explained. “So instead of running them over, I’m going to turn this shoulder and just go down.”
That admission should raise eyebrows around New England. Sure, he may have recorded the video almost a year ago, but does anyone think Newton’s body is in better shape after another season of taking hits from NFL defenders? The fact he directly acknowledged that 2016 was the last time he felt healthy doesn’t do anything to silence the narrative that Newton’s physical abilities have eroded in recent years. And that doesn’t bode well for his chances of proving people wrong in 2021.
The Patriots shouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on the Newton experiment now that they have their quarterback of the future on the roster
Belichick brought Newton back on a one-year deal, but that doesn’t mean the veteran should feel safe about his job. The Patriots have no business putting him on the field if he can’t run the offense. They already tried that last year, and the results spoke for themselves. It makes no sense to sign Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne to lucrative free-agent contracts only to have their talents wasted by playing with a sub-par quarterback.
Assuming Newton doesn’t make an unprecedented 11th-year leap, his flaws as a passer (along with his declining physical skills) will continue to cause him to fall short of expectations. Rather than let the experiment linger unnecessarily, the Patriots should pull the plug and go all-in on building around Mac Jones. The former Alabama star possesses the processing speed, accuracy, and pocket presence to excel in New England’s timing-based offense.
Unfortunately for Newton, he never had those even before his 2016 injury.