There hasn’t been much buzz surrounding the New England Patriots’ quarterback search, but considering how general manager Bill Belichick likes to work his front office magic behind the scenes, fans really shouldn’t read too much into it.
As things stand, the Patriots’ remaining realistic options — assuming a Deshaun Watson deal is entirely off the table — are striking a trade for somebody that doesn’t have a future with his current team (like Marcus Mariota) or taking a free agency flier on a veteran.
When it comes to the latter, a report last week indicated that the Patriots haven’t ruled out a reunion with Cam Newton.
While nobody would refute the notion that the 31-year-old didn’t look the part this past season, the organization clearly has great respect for him and how he carried himself publicly amid adversity.
Speaking of which, the Patriots might sympathize with everything Newton was forced to overcome in 2020.
The most notable of his obstacles included testing positive for COVID-19 in the middle of the season, and it’s worth pondering if his latest comments about that stumbling block could encourage a potential reunion.
Former Patriots quarterback Cam Newton opened up about how much testing positive for COVID-19 derailed his season.
“I was one of the first football players to catch COVID, and it happened so fast,” Newton said during an appearance on Brandon Marshall’s “I Am Athlete” podcast. “When I came back, that’s where the lack of an offseason and the lack of time in the system really showed itself. I was behind, and I was thinking too much.
“The offense kept going, and I was stagnant for two weeks. It was all new terminology. I wasn’t just trying to learn a system for what it was, I was learning a 20-year system in two months.
“They threw everything at me, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. At the end of the day, you have to go through things in that type of manner, to show yourself that you can’t skip processes. I’d be the first person to tell you that I needed time.”
It’s admittedly difficult not to connect Newton’s struggles with him being forced to be away from the Patriots for two weeks. For a quarterback deprived of a regularly-sized offseason who was trying to learn a new playbook for the first time in his career, testing positive was quite literally the worst-case scenario for him. He was clearly compromised and his performance reflected it.
Think about it for a second. The Patriots were 2-1 when Newton contracted the virus, coming up with big wins against the Dolphins and Raiders — both of whom look liked playoff teams for the majority of 2020 — and a loss against Seattle in primetime that would’ve been a victory had the former MVP not been stuffed at the goal line on the final play of regulation.
When Newton returned, however, the Patriots endured a four-game losing streak and ultimately finished 7-9, a whopping four games back of a playoff berth.
We’re not saying that all of Newton’s struggles can be attributed to him missing over two weeks worth of practice, but if you couple that with the time it took for him to get back into playing shape (go look up the physical toll COVID-19 can have on an athlete), it really isn’t surprising he looked as disheveled as he did over the final 12 games. He also seems to think Year 2 with the Pats would be very different.
Who knows, maybe these eye-opening comments will be enough to convince the Patriots to undergo a change of heart and give him another shot under center. And if they do, they better make it a point of emphasis not to wait until late June to sign him this time around.