The dust settled on the Patriots quarterback battle this week and -- as expected -- it was Cam Newton who was the last man standing as Bill Belichick reportedly informed the club that he will be QB1 when New England kicks off the 2020 regular season against Miami on Sept. 13. While many of us saw the writing on the wall rather early that Newton would eventually be named the starter, it's notable that the former league MVP was also voted as a team captain by his peers. That is a true testament to how not only has Newton been able to show off his talent to earn the starting gig, but also has swiftly established himself as a leader in Foxborough as the club is set to enter the post-Tom Brady era.
"It says a lot," Julian Edelman told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" this week when asked about Newton being named the starter and a team captain. "He came in with an energy. He came in with a purpose and he came in as a natural leader. That is what you want to see at that position. It is one of those things where you're excited for it because now we can get it going. We'll see how everything shakes out and we're excited. Just worrying about the season coming up and getting ready for this prep on Miami."
Newton's infectious energy has been something that's been brought up by a number of players and coaches throughout the summer, and it has clearly endeared himself to the rest of the locker room.
"He is a guy that each day comes with so much energy," Devin McCourty also told the program. "He brings juice to practice and definitely to the offense for him, whether it is talking trash to us (the defense), or celebrating each time he or one of the other guys on offense makes a play. I think he's really brought a lot of juice to the offense, even our team just how he is as a person and his personality.
"It's been great to have him in the locker room and we're looking forward to going out there taking on different challenges and leaning on his leadership."
While Bill Belichick didn't publicly acknowledge Newton as the Week 1 starter, the quarterback did open up about both accolades saying it was hard to put into words. Of course, this was just the start for Newton's comeback journey as he wisely noted "now the real work kind of starts for me" with Week 1 officially upon us.
Here are some of the rest of the news and notes from Foxborough in the last week:
Patriots name captains
Along with Newton, the Patriots announced seven more players as team captains for the 2020 season. Special teams ace Matthew Slater, center David Andrews, running back James White, linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, safety Devin McCourty and corner Jason McCourty were all voted by the rest of the roster to lead the team throughout this season.
For Slater and Devin McCourty, this is the 10th straight season they were named team captains. Jason McCourty, Bentley, and Guy are all first-time captains.
Kicking situation big question after cutdown day
The biggest nugget that came out of cutdown day for the Patriots as the club trimmed its roster down to 53 players was the kicking situation. Not only did New England cut rookie Justin Rohrwasser but it also let go of veteran Nick Folk, leaving no kickers on the roster to begin the year. This was likely a formality and it's likely that Folk, who recently re-signed with the club after spending time with the Patriots in 2019, will find his way back to begin the season. That said, this is a rough look for the organization after spending a fifth-round selection on Rohrwasser at the 2020 NFL Draft. He has since re-signed to the practice squad, but so far that pick appears to have been a whiff as he's been unable to solidify himself as the placekicker. While fifth-round draft choices are hardly the treasure that first-rounders or Day 2 selections are, this isn't an ideal situation for New England after letting longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski go earlier this offseason.
So long, Mohamed Sanu
This wasn't the best week for Bill Belichick as the Patriots GM. Not only does the Rohrwasser pick look like a bust before he even really saw the field, but the club released veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu earlier this week. That decision particularly stung after New England traded a second-rounder for Sanu's services in the midst of last season.
Upon acquiring Sanu in 2019, he struggled to contribute in the passing game after suffering an ankle injury around the time of his arrival that required offseason surgery. Fast-forward this summer: the 31-year-old struggled with separation and it proved to be more beneficial for the club to clear $6.5 million off their cap by releasing him. In his eight regular-season games with the Patriots, Sanu caught 26 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. Not exactly what you expect after shipping away a second-rounder.
"Just one of those things that didn't work out," Bill Belichick said Friday on Sanu's release. "I have a lot of respect for Mo, but ultimately things just didn't work out. I think he tried very hard, I think we tried hard. I don't think it was anybody's fault or anything like that. It was just one of those situations that just didn't work out as well as everyone hoped it would have when the transaction was made. As always, we will try to make the decisions that are best for the football team, whether that's bringing a person in or releasing a player. Obviously it can go both ways. At this point in time, we felt like that's best for the team. Last year we felt differently. We're in a little different situation this year."
From here, the Patriots receiving unit will lean heavily on Julian Edelman and 2019 first-round draft choice N'Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and Damiere Byrd will factor into the passing game as well after making the opening 53-man roster.
Window open for Michel thanks to Harris' injury
For the bulk of the summer, it was the Damien Harris show in Foxborough. The second-year back had received rave reviews and was look at as a true contender to snatch the starting spot in the backfield over incumbent Sony Michel, who was still recovering from offseason foot surgery. Well, the injury bug has now bit Harris, who needs surgery on his pinky finger, putting his status for the opener into question.
If Harris does miss time, the door is now open for Michel to re-solidify himself as the top dog in New England's backfield. Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears told reporters this week that the former first-round back did put on a bit of weight following his surgery this offseason, something that he's needed to trim over the last few months. Outside of that, Fears says that Michel is looking spry.
"He's got fresh legs," he said of Michel. "We have to beat on him a little bit more first, and then we'll see what he has going. He's coming back off after missing the first two-and-a-half, three weeks of training camp. Hell yeah, he's going to be fresh and quick. His weight is good, no doubt. We've worked hard on that. He looks good. He doesn't show any signs of slowing down from the injury, anything along those lines."
Michel had down year in his second season in the league in 2019 and this campaign will be a pivotal one for his future in Foxborough as Harris is breathing down his neck. This window of Harris potentially missing time, however, could be the showcase that Michel needs to re-establish himself.
David Andrews wins community service award
Starting center David Andrews was this year's Ron Burton Community Service Award recipient at the Patriots Premiere that was held virtually on Thursday. This award has been dubbed as the team's highest honor and is given to the Patriots player that has given back to the community over the past year. Andrews is the 18th recipient of this award, which is named after Ron Burton, who was the first player drafted by the team in the inaugural year of 1960 and someone who exemplified tremendous generosity towards the community over his tenure.
"David embodies everything the Patriots organization is about: determination, dedication and a team-first attitude, on and off the field," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. "He attacks his commitment to the community with the same passion and energy that has helped this former rookie free agent grow into a four-time team captain. He is as dedicated to serving others, both his teammates and the community, as any player we have had. Leadership is best exemplified in times of adversity, and David's commitment to helping others was on full display last year. Despite missing the season for health reasons, David still volunteered his time to serve and support our community. We are so proud of David for all he's accomplished, but most importantly, for who he is."
Andrews missed all of last season after blood clots were found in his lungs. The 28-year-old has since recovered and is cleared to return as a key figure in New England's offensive line.
Why Belichick did those Subway commercials
One of the more lighthearted nuggets that came out of Foxborough this week was the debut of head coach Bill Belichick's Subway commercials. He generated headlines filming the ads in Connecticut earlier this offseason, but now they've arrived and they are pretty spectacular.
What's arguably even better than these commercials, however, is why Bill Belichick -- who rarely steps into these types of circles -- decided to do it in the first place. He said back in late July when images first leaked of him filming the commercials that he decided to do it to help fund the Bill Belichick Foundation during this unprecedented time.
"I haven't ever done anything like that," he said back in July. "I think we mentioned it on the BBF [Bill Belichick Foundation] website, but it's kind of a difficult environment to raise funds now for charities, foundations and so forth for a number of reasons. This is an opportunity to spend a day to be able to fund the initiatives that we have in the foundation for student-athletes and the various sports programs that are, I would say, in a little tougher shape than maybe what they normally are financially from an opportunity standpoint.
"Appreciate the opportunity that Subway gave me, gave the foundation and the support that they gave us. Yeah, it was a fun commercial to do. And everybody loves sandwiches, so hopefully they will be OK with it. I know I'm going to get killed in the rookie shows on this. I know that's going to happen, but I'll just have to swallow it."
Oh, I'm sure Belichick was the butt of a number of jokes in New England's locker room all week.
All eyes on Week 1
As crazy as it may sound: It's game week in Foxborough! The Patriots will open up their 2020 regular season by hosting the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. There will be a number of familiar faces on the opposing sideline, particularly linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts along with Ted Karras, who all signed with Brian Flores' Dolphins this offseason after tenures with the Patriots.
Of course, no fans will be in attendance for this game due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but you'll still be able to watch on CBS at 1 p.m. ET. Jim Nantz will be on the call alongside Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will be the sideline reporter.