The Patriots had a need for a quarterback when Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Newton sat in free agency for months waiting for a quarterback-needy team to sign him. When Newton finally signed with the Patriots, a few media members were skeptical that Newton and Bill Belichick could coexist.
Newton addressed the elephant in the room during a candid interview with WEEI. He believes that skepticism was racially charged.
“Honestly? We going honest? It is because I’m a Black athlete, a quarterback, that for a long time, I’ve been unapologetic. It’s because I have carried myself in a way that the media hasn’t gave me my just due,” Newton told WEEI sports radio on Monday. “But yet at the same time, I do understand that and I don’t have no type of resentment toward that. I embrace who I am, I embrace the moment. I live in the moment. One of the quotes I live by is carpe diem.
“Throughout it all, I’ve been able to see an opportunity. I went down a list of things I expect from Bill Belichick, just like Bill Belichick wants a list of things he wants out of Cam Newton. I think the narrative coming here was kind of stereotypical to an unjust eye; ‘We heard this about Cam. We heard that. He’s a prima donna. He’s this and that.’ But when you really put a microscope to who I really am, there is a lot of favoritism that has not been favorable for my benefit.
“But through it all, I’m not going to make this about me. I want to make this about this team and how to gain these guys’ trust. I think that’s the biggest thing, the biggest challenge I have doing, is letting these guys understand, ‘Listen, I know there’s been a lot said, I can feel the eyes and the attention that’s on me as soon as I walk inside the facility, but at the end of the day, you guys got to know a lot of that is BS, and I’m here to remove all doubts.’”
It seems that’s exactly what Newton is doing. He won the starting quarterback job, and was named a team captain for 2020. He’s the first player in the building and the last to leave — his hours are so long that one Patriots receiver said he’s never actually witnessed Newton leaving the facility. And yet, there were still the unfair assumptions that quarterback wouldn’t succeed in New England. Newton said it has been tough being a Black quarterback, ever since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011.
“I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but I will say this: When I came into the NFL, I believe there was Michael Vick and Donavan McNabb as the only two active black quarterbacks and there was an image you had to look like, you had to act a certain type of way to play the position,” Newton said. “I’ve come off the backs of the Randall Cunninghams, the Donovan McNabbs, the Dante Culpeppers, the Vince Youngs. It’s just a lineage of African-American quarterbacks that came before that I want to do right by.
“And now when you look at the league you see Russell Wilson, myself, Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III. The list goes on. Deshaun Watson. Dak Prescott. I think the league is in a place where we have accepted that change of not saying it’s right or wrong or indifferent, it’s just different. Coming up where if you wasn’t Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees you were going to be a failure. Those guys are all great obviously with their careers.
“But there are 1,000 ways to skin a cat. I do believe for me when I came into this league you were almost expected to act a certain a way, talk a certain way, prepare a certain type of way, practice a certain type of way, play a game a certain type of way. To see where the league is at now it makes me smile because there are many different ways you can win football games and you can do either by throwing or running.”
Newton will be the second Black quarterback to start for the Patriots. Jacoby Brissett was the first in 2016.