NFL

Cam ‘absolutely’ surprised by Patriots release

  • Covered Patriots since 1997
  • Joined ESPN in 2009

Free-agent quarterback Cam Newton said he didn’t see his release from the New England Patriots coming in his first remarks since the team cut him 10 days ago.

“Did it catch me by surprise being released? Absolutely,” Newton said in a video released Friday morning.

Newton’s remarks came in a YouTube Live video in which he sat down with his father, Cecil, on the football field at Newton’s high school alma mater in Atlanta.

Newton told his father he didn’t believe his five-day absence from the Patriots due to a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” in August was the primary reason for his release but added: “During that time, I started seeing signs of change. … Do I think this would have happened without me being away from the team for five days? Honestly, yes. It was going to happen. Did it help ease the decision? Yes.”

Newton said he “absolutely” would have been willing to serve as a backup to rookie Mac Jones, but it was his belief that Jones would not have been comfortable with that arrangement.

“Let me be honest with you. If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we’re going to give the team to Mac, you’re going to be second string. We expect you to be everything and some to guide him throughout this tenure,’ I would have said ‘absolutely,'” Newton said. “But listen, the truth of the matter is this: He would have been uncomfortable.”

The 32-year-old Newton said he isn’t retiring, believes the Patriots will win games with Jones at quarterback and detailed his viewpoint of how things shifted at practice.

“That time with me finding out [about the release] and kind of seeing things different, when I look back at it, I was probably getting two reps to his 10 reps. And that’s why it was starting to make sense,” Newton said. “Even though I was starting, that doesn’t necessarily mean nothing.

“I think that’s where they did a good job with kind of disguising it: ‘Cam took first-team reps today.’ But [media members] didn’t know the practice structure. The first-team goes down, the second team goes back, and then the first team comes back too. And that’s when [Jones] was getting his first-team reps.”

In sharing how stunned he was to hear of his release, Newton said he arrived at Gillette Stadium around 8 a.m. on Aug. 31 and had to call his driver back about eight minutes later. He said he was told Bill Belichick wanted to see him, but the coach was in a different office than normal.

“[Patriots senior football adviser] Matt Patricia was there, Bill was there, and we greeted each other and just started talking,” Newton said. “At that time they told me they were going to give the reigns to Mac. I was like, ‘Cool.’ It didn’t dawn on me, ‘Y’all releasing me?’ I was confused. We all were shocked. It was all uncomfortable for everybody.

“… The reason why they released me is because, indirectly, I was going to be a distraction, without being a starter. Just my aura. That’s my gift and my curse. When you bring Cam Newton into your facility [and] your franchise, people are interested by mere fact of ‘Who is he? Why does he wear his hair? Why does he talk? Why does he act? Why does he perform?’ All these questions.”

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