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 that he believes 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.”
Newton said he enjoyed working with Jones while adding, “Mac Jones didn’t beat me out. But I would have been a distraction. If they would have gave him the starting role, they knew the perception that it would have had if the success didn’t come.”
“If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we’re going to give the team to Mac [Jones], 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.’ But listen, the truth of the matter is this: He would have been uncomfortable.”
Newton, 32, who said he isn’t retiring, 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.”
Newton also expanded on what happened with him and the COVID-19 protocols, saying he was traveling for a second opinion on his foot, which he underwent surgery on for a Lisfranc injury in 2019.
“This had nothing to do with no vaccination. They gave me clearance to go. I’m owed a second opinion. This was the last time I felt that I was going to have an opportunity to get a second opinion,” Newton said. “Not to say the personnel with the Patriots wasn’t coherent to telling me everything I needed to know, but having four eyes on it is better than having two eyes on it, in my opinion. It wasn’t that I was having any issues or pain. I just wanted to do a checkup with the person who, in essence, diagnosed me with the Lisfranc. I felt obligated to kind of check back in with a six-month review.
“I crossed all the lines, I checked all the boxes, I dotted all my ‘I’s,’ and then to find out that I had to sit out, that’s when I kind of felt like bamboozled because ‘Y’all told me to go.’ It wasn’t like, ‘Cam, you know if you go, you’re taking it on your risk.'”
Asked if he would have done so knowing the situation, Newton said, “Absolutely not.”
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 he usually would be.
“[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 reins 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.”