By Lenn Robbins
If Cam Newton had not become a quarterback, what position could he play?
At 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, he might make for a Gronk-like tight end. Or perhaps he’d be a Danielle Hunteresque defensive end. Man, a man that big, with Newton’s strength and speed (4.59 in the 40) could have quite an impact on the game.
If he’s not too busy getting impacted that is.
Cameron Jerrell Newton has always been a polarizing figure – from being an oversized prep quarterback, to getting kicked out of Florida after the theft of a computer, to winning the Heisman Trophy and national championship at Auburn, to becoming one of the few black quarterbacks in the NFL, to his marvelously dapper wardrobe – Cam always found the cameras or vice versa.
As did defensive players.
They found Cam’s ribs, back, foot, shoulder and head. Especially his head.
Newton has only been diagnosed with one concussion, that coming in October of 2016. He absorbed at least three other helmet-to-helmet hits that season that drew no flag. After a 30-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals in 2016, Newton let his frustration be known.
“It’s really taken the fun out of the game for me, honestly, because, at times, I don’t even feel safe.”
Anyone who saw the Mack truck-like hit he took from the Saints’ David Onyemata in Jan. 7, 2018 playoff game knows Newton wasn’t on Canal Street, he was a on Queer Street. Onyemata’s hit was clean but Newton has taken more questionable hits to the head, and questionable late hits than any quarterback in the concussion era.
Newton, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Patriots on Sunday, now has a chance to go from being the least protected starting quarterback in the NFL, to the signal caller of the franchise that has had the most protected starting quarterback in league history – Tom Brady.
Remember when Brady suffered his season-ending knee injury in 2008? The NFL quickly enacted a rule that forbids defenders on the ground from lunging at a quarterback’s legs. The Brady Rule as it’s known.
The Newton Rule? Thou Shalt Be Pummeled.
Newton was on the receiving end of a “Brady Hit,” in 2016. No penalty flag was thrown although Arizona’s Calais Campbell subsequently was fined $18,231.
“Enough is enough,’’ said Newton. “I don’t think there’s a person that can go through what I go through and still keep their head, you know what I’m saying? Hits to the head, that’s one thing, but when you’re not protected in the pocket, that’s another thing. The story of my life ever since I came in [to the league] is just, ‘Oh, oh, well, we missed that one, I’m sorry.’ That’s bull crap.”
And remember the time in 2015 when he was hit late on the sideline after throwing a pass. He accused ref Ed Hochuli of saying, “Cam, you’re not old enough to get that call.”
Brady would have gotten that call. Drew Brees would have. Aaron Rodgers. Russell Wilson. Patrick Mahomes. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag.
It makes one wonder why Newton hasn’t been afforded the recipient of protection given to players of the NFL’s marquee position. Is it that Newton is so much bigger and stronger than most quarterbacks that he can take it?
Or is it that he is a big, strong, handsome black man as opposed to a big strong handsome white man, such as Brady? Is that microaggression on the part of the suddenly woke NFL or is it macroaggression considering the injuries Newton has sustained? Broken rib. Broken vertebra. Foot surgery. Shoulder surgery. Concussion.
No matter now. Soon after news broke that the Patriots had signed Newton to a financially low-risk, one-year deal to compete for Brady’s job, it was hailed as perfect fit. And it is. Although New England says it has faith in Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots have a win-now roster and a 68-year-old coach-in-chief.
Newton was the 2015 NFL MVP. Stidham was the 2018 Music City Bowl MVP.
It’s Newton’s job to lose. And this time, he should feel safe.
Not only do the 2020 Patriots have a better line than any of the ones Newton played for in Carolina, but he is now part of the Bill Belichick Death Star Dynasty. He will don the protective cloak known as the New England Patriots jersey and immediately become the recipient of questionable calls.
It’s part of the Patriot Way – Do Your Job; Get the Call.
In their 2018 Super Bowl run, the Patriots were the beneficiaries of overturned touchdown calls, not once, not twice, but three times! “It’s dumb,” former safety Rodney Harrison told reporters of the Pats’ perceived preferential officiating. “Everyone hates us.”
Well, true. The Pats are hated because they are the worst kind of cheaters – successful cheaters – Spygate, Deflategate, and now Filmgate. Six Super Bowls.
The NFL just wrist-slapped the Patriots by taking a 2021 third-round pick and $1.1 million in fine for Filmgate, but Belichick trades third-round picks like penny stocks and a $1.1 million fine might as well be Bitcoin currency for a franchise valued at $3.7 billion.
This is Cam’s new team. He will benefit from an excellent coach/GM in Belichick. His skill set will be optimized by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He doesn’t have a great receiving corps but Julian Edelman is better than anyone Newton had in Carolina – sorry Kelvin Benjamin.
Most of all, Newton will have the protection he never had. He’ll be a Patriot.