Cam Newton has two regrets about his time in New England.
Both could be cured with more time.
One: Newton wishes he could have met reporters face to face this season and conveyed exactly who he is instead of depending on a socially-distanced media to introduce him to New England via a series of virtual interactions.
“Because I’m pretty sure, just as eager as I wanted to have those conversations, I know there’s a lot of other reporters that wanted to do the same,” he said Thursday.
Two: he wishes he understood in June how deep a dive he was taking by signing with the Patriots and agreeing to run their system, one of the most expansive and intricate attacks in the NFL.
“You need more real reps to go through because there’s only but so much you can kind of make up. You could put the eyelashes on, you could do your eyebrows. You could put your lipstick on, the mascara and the lip liner. But sooner or later, it’s going to rain. And the real true you will show,” Newton said. “And unfortunately it showed – not necessarily in ways that I wanted to. But it was just hesitation.”
It’s true Newton has been hesitant as a passer this season. He’s thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdowns in the worst statistical year of his decorated career, and now runs an elementary offense that’s been pared down both for his sake and those of his receivers. Sunday’s regular-season finale could be his last game as a Patriot, a difficult farewell, yet entirely understandable given the team’s struggles.
Still, it appears Newton wants more time. Or more accurately, a second chance.
Because over his 25-minute video call with reporters Thursday, he was longwinded and wistful. While discussing tough losses and sacrifice, he smiled constantly. It damn near stuck on his face.
Early in his career, Newton’s grin was met with a certain skepticism. It was alleged evidence he was “fake” or disingenuous. Now there’s no question Newton has matured since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick with Carolina.
But on Thursday, his smile was entirely authentic; a representation of hope and gratitude, the driving forces of his New England experience.
Because without them, how else could Newton have survived months of missing his children, their birthdays and first steps? Or a bout with COVID-19? Or before all that, an extended stay in free agency isolation, when every team in the NFL silently told him he was unwanted?
Newton’s authenticity is what drew teammates and coaches into his orbit this summer, when he became the rare first-year veteran voted a team captain. Since then, his on-field failures have begun to overwhelm his successes.
Newton was notably dejected after the Pats’ 38-9 loss to Buffalo last Monday night, the third game this season during which he’s been benched. Still, he said Thursday, none of the aftermath or criticism compared to the sacrifice he’s made for the opportunity to compete, even as those opportunities have led to failure.
“None of it is even a close second to not being able to see your children. Just that. You miss your kids’ first steps, you’re not there during Christmas, you’re not there on birthdays. And then on top of that, you’re sucking? Ah, man,” Newton said. “And coming from a person that’s already emotional? And I don’t even want to talk to people on a regular day let alone when everything is going good.”
Newton doesn’t know what the future holds, whether he’ll be welcomed back to New England or re-sign. So on Thursday, in his final extended interview with reporters, a time to explain himself, answer for his performance and his season, he came prepared to say good-bye.
“Through it all, you know, this year has taught me so much about myself. It was almost like, you know, going up under the hood for me,” Newton said. Working on my attitude, working on my patience, working on my faith, working on, you know, the resilient side of you, you know. What are you going to do when things aren’t, you know, so good? When are we going to tackle your family, tackle your health, tackle your success?
“Can you still do it? Can you throw? Can you run? Right? And how are you going to respond to it? So through it all, man, it’s always a challenge. I’m always a person that’s trying to get better and I will continually have that same mentality. And I look forward to it. And it’s some OK guys in his locker room that I plan on still having connections with and.
“Yeah, there you go.”
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