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The Patriots have changed. Cam Newton hasn't. Together, they make for one of the NFL's most fascinating storylines

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At the start of the most intriguing potential second acts in NFL history, enjoying a bromance with his new boss Bill Belichick, you can see why Cam Newton isn’t holding back.

Not that he has ever held back.

There was his bold confidence at Auburn, even (or especially) in the face of NCAA “scandal.” There was his pre-draft revelation that he viewed himself as not just a player, but an “entertainer and icon.” There were the years of colorful news conferences in Carolina, often complete with hats and outfits that NFL quarterbacks don’t normally wear.

Cam has pretty much always done and said what Cam wanted to say and do. It didn’t fit the NFL QB mold. It made some people nervous.

So when asked directly on WEEI in Boston on Monday about why there were questions about how’d he fit in New England, playing for Belichick as Tom Brady’s replacement, Newton didn’t hesitate.

“Honestly? We going honest?” Newton said. “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.

“But yet at the same time, I do understand that and I don’t have no type of resentment toward that,” Newton continued. “I embrace who I am, I embrace the moment. I live in the moment. One of the quotes I live by is carpe diem.”

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton waits for the ball during an NFL football training camp practice, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton waits for the ball during training camp on Aug. 18 in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

Here is Cam Newton at age 31, no excuses, no complaints. He wishes he was portrayed differently by the media, yet while he’s willing to air it out in the open, it isn’t something he’s dwelling on.

What’s fair and unfair concerning Newton is a book unto itself. He has been a lightning rod when it comes to reaction from both fans and media. He has also been an electric performer on the field. If nothing else, pegging down who he is and what he stands for has never been simple.

He could be whomever you wanted him to be. Or whomever you wanted him to not be.

Whatever. Once Carolina dumped him and the rest of the league ignored him, all he wanted was a chance. That it came in New England, of all places, leads to one of the storylines of the season. Newton himself has admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect out of Belichick, the famed coaching curmudgeon.

What’s happened so far is something out of a movie, the opposites bound by a common passion to win. Newton isn’t just the Patriots’ Week 1 starter and captain, he is on the receiving end of the kind of gushing praise from Belichick that was rarely heaped on Brady.

“Nobody works harder than Cam does,” Belichick said last month on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “... He’s got a great personality. He gets along with everybody … He’s very, very competitive on the field … It’s important for him to be the first guy up the hill when we run sprints, and it’s important to him to be first in everything that he competes in …”

And so on.

“A match made in heaven,” Newton said Monday.

We’ll see how it goes in actual games, but Newton wasn’t afraid to revisit the prevailing concerns about just how he and Belichick would mix. He acknowledges he had questions too.

“Is it real what they say about Belichick? Is it going to be too ... I didn't know,” Newton said.

Here’s a simple primer. It’s going to be about winning. Always. The rest of it will fall into place.

“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,’” Newton said. “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,” he continued. “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.’

“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. ... If you weren't Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees, you were going to be a failure.”

Newton wasn’t those guys. He succeeded anyway, at least until injuries slowed him down.

Which brings this to the present.

Newton hasn’t changed. His address has, though. So too has the NFL. Athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks of any race are the norm, not the exception. And African American QBs in particular are everywhere.

“There are many different ways you can win football games,” Newton noted.

Tom Brady won a lot of them in New England. Cam Newton now has his chance to do so as well. If he can, then what was already a fascinating experiment becomes even more interesting to follow.

Cam Newton and Bill Belichick making it as big as the two of them to expect would change plenty of opinions about plenty of topics.

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