Cam Newton's first season with the New England Patriots didn't go according to plan, for either party involved. Newton struggled throughout the 2020 campaign with the Patriots, as New England finished with a losing record for the first time since 2000 (Bill Belichick's first season) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Newton may only last one season with New England because of his disastrous year, as the Patriots have even more questions at quarterback than they did when Tom Brady left in free agency. The former MVP quarterback felt his COVID-19 diagnosis played a role in his 2020 season, but not in the way one might think.
"I was one of the first football players to catch it, and it happened so fast," Newton told Brandon Marshall on his "I Am Athlete" podcast, via the Boston Globe. "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."
Newton's numbers post-COVID were enough to question his future as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Since returning from the league's reserve/COVID-19 list (Newton only missed one game), Newton completed 64.98% of his passes for 1,943 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions for an 80.6 passer rating (12 games). Out of 32 quarterbacks with 200 pass attempts, Newton was 21st in completion percentage, 23rd in passing yards, tied for 29th in touchdown passes (which was last in the NFL), and was tied for 27th in passer rating. Newton was third amongst NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards (443) and first in rushing touchdowns (eight).
While the Patriots have a decision to make with Newton, who is a free agent, the former MVP isn't ready to hang up his cleats yet. Newton will play in 2021, whether he has to find a new team or not.
"I can't go out like that....My pride won't allow me to do it," Newton said. "There aren't 32 guys better than me."