Cam Newton’s 43-minute YouTube video titled “My Side Of The Story” (typed, shockingly, in regular font) was pretty enlightening, as far as athlete-driven content goes. In typical New England style, coaches have said next to nothing—and only good things—about Newton since he was surprisingly cut two weeks ago. So any additional information, however biased it may be, is better than those meaningless platitudes.
Newton filmed the video at his high school football field, with his father Cecil playing the role of his defender and presenting the “pundits’” narrative about his son.
Before we get to the most important point, here are some interesting tidbits Newton dropped, mostly prefaced by a “Let me honest for a second,” or “The truth of the matter is.”
- Newton said he was surprised by his release, but that he started seeing signs of his status in practice when he was getting two reps to Mac Jones’s 10. “Even though I was starting, that doesn’t mean nothing,” Newton said. “They did a good job disguising it. Oh, Cam took first team reps today, but they didn’t know the practice structure was OK, first team goes down, second team goes back, and then the first team comes back and that is when [Mac] gets his reps.”
- Newton said Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia (who is back and now acting in a similar role as Nick Caserio) were in the room when he was called in to get cut. “They told me they were giving the reins to Mac, and I was like OK cool, da da da,” Newton said. “And it didn’t dawn on me that I was like, y’all releasing me? I was confused. We were all in shock, it was all uncomfortable for everybody. I wanted to make sure, listen, I have been in this league 10, 11 years, I know how this works. I don’t want y’all to feel sorry for me.”
- Cecil asked Cam how his vaccination status, which caused him to be away from the team for five days after he breached COVID-19 protocols by going to Atlanta to get a second opinion on his Lisfranc injury, affected his release. “Do I think this would have happened without me being away from the team for five days?” Cam asked. “Honestly, yes. It was going to happen. Did it help ease the decision? Yes.”
- Newton said he did not know he would have to sit out five days for the re-entry period, and if he knew that, he would not have gone to Atlanta. “Then to find out I had to sit out?” he said. “That’s when I felt bamboozled because I’m like, y’all told me to go. It was not like, Cam, you know if you go, you are taking your own risk. It was not that.”
But Newton’s most interesting revelation came when he theorized why the Patriots cut him, rather than keeping him on as a backup to Jones. “Can we be honest?” he said. “The reason why they released me is because, indirectly, I was going to be a distraction.”
“Without being the starter?” Cecil asked.
“Without being the starter,” said Cam. “My aura. Just my aura. I told you this off camera, that is my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton to your facility, when you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are interested by mere fact of, Who is he?”
Since he was cut, I’ve asked around about Newton in conversations with agents and NFL personnel guys recently, and they’ve all voiced a take similar to the quarterback’s. I’ve heard several variations of He’s not the guy you want mentoring a rookie starter, and He’s not going to hold a clipboard and help another quarterback. The agents and personnel guys think Newton won’t find another job until a starter gets hurt and that team’s backup is one with limited experience. Take Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill and backup Logan Woodside, for example. These takes can feel unfair to Newton, who has always brought out the worst opinions from the stodgiest, whitest corners of the NFL. Is everyone just recycling the same opinion because it’s what has always been said about Cam? How does anyone really know that Newton would be a distraction as a healthy backup until they put him in that position?
“If they would have asked me, would I play behind—if they say, Cam we are going to give the team to Mac, you are going to be second string and we expect you to be everything and some to guide him throughout this tenure, I would have said absolutely, yeah,” Cam said.
“Cam,” Cecil said, giving his son a skeptical look, suggesting with his body language that even he didn’t buy this. “Cam.”
“Listen,” Cam said. “The truth of the matter is, he would have been uncomfortable.”
“With you looking over his shoulder?” Cecil asked.
“Yeah and they knew, because you have to understand. My whole narrative has been always created by someone else’s definition of who I was. Is it fair? No. But now I sit in this seat, at 32, with more understanding about that. There’s nothing that I can do. Mac Jones didn’t beat me out, but I would have been a distraction, knowing that if they would have gave him the starting role, they knew the perception it would have had if the success didn’t come as they were saying.”
Newton has the self-awareness to recognize exactly why New England cut him, (though Jones did in fact beat him out of the job) and from conversations with people around the league, I think he’s right that it was going to happen even if he was vaccinated. NFL people have decided that Newton’s aura, whether self-determined or projected onto him by others over the course of his career, is too big to be a backup quarterback in this league. Newton insisted he isn’t done with football yet and that there aren’t 32 quarterbacks better than him, though his current unemployment suggests otherwise. Where he winds up next is anyone’s guess. Will he get a chance to prove he could be a valuable backup? And would he take it?