Patriots QB Cam Newton on being named starter: Now the real work starts

Cam Newton’s future was very unclear at about the same time much of the world’s reality was thrown into uncertainty.

Fast-forward to September, and Newton is again the starting quarterback for an NFL franchise.

Newton was named the Patriots’ starter in a team meeting Thursday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. With the news came what most saw as inevitable when Newton signed with the Patriots earlier in the summer: It wouldn’t be veteran Brian Hoyer or youngster Jarrett Stidham, but Newton taking the snaps in Week 1.

Newton will officially get the first crack at replacing Tom Brady, but as he said Friday, he wasn’t approaching camp with such an assumption. And when he learned he was officially QB1 and a team captain, the struggles stemming from multiple injuries and an unceremonious departure from Carolina all became worth it.

“Words can’t even explain my feelings when I heard,” Newton said. “I can kind of sense that it was almost expected, but not for me though. Ever since I first spoke to any personnel of the team, I wanted to make sure that they understood my drive and understanding that I’m not taking this opportunity for granted. Whether it’s showing up as early as I do show up or leave as late as I leave, I know people know that my heart is in the right place.

“As far as when it comes to this team, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do besides put their best interests at heart, and to be named captain was just something that was rewarding to hear, but at the same time, now the real work kind of starts for me knowing I have to prove it each and every day. Knowing I have people looking to me in the leadership council to direct the team in the right way.”

Talking heads wondered plenty whether the flashy, expressive Newton would work under the stoic, no-nonsense eye of Bill Belichick. That didn’t seem to be an issue, at least not in the controlled setting of camp, and Newton took it as an immense compliment to be viewed as first-string worthy by a coach who has won more Super Bowls than any other.

“Hard to kind of explain in words, but I’ve had a plan since I’ve been here just to become the best player I can possibly be and be coachable knowing I will be coached by the game’s finest,” Newton said of his reaction when Belichick named him the starter.

Added Newton: “Anything they ask of me to do, it’s my job to do it.”

It is indeed Newton’s job to execute the plays as called, but he brings to the Patriots an element Brady never (or rarely) could: legitimately dangerous improvisation. Belichick’s defenses have been burned by Newton’s ability to avoid sacks, extend plays and pick up big gains in the face of adversity. Now, his offense will be able to benefit from it when the designed play doesn’t work as planned.

That’s one of the most interesting parts of these new-look Patriots. Instead of knowing they’d be led out of the tunnel by a shrieking Brady — who would command the offense, sit in the pocket, survey the field and deliver in the most important moments — these Patriots get to see how Newton changes their offense for the better.

Just how that looks remains to be seen. Newton, for one, wisely isn’t giving away any hints.

“I think the most exciting thing is that nobody knows, and you’re still not going to know,” Newton said. “So you got to tune-in and see. That’s what excites me the most because everyone is having the same questions — What are they gonna do? Are they going to do this? Are they gonna do that? — I’m not going to tell you. C’mon, it’s almost game-week guy! You can’t just let all the tricks out of the hat.”

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