By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Newton knows firsthand that perception does not always equal reality. As somewhat of a lightning rod for debate, Newton has had to deal with criticism — fair and otherwise — for his entire career.
Still, in a moment of honesty this summer, Newton admitted that he briefly fell victim to believing in the hype and the narrative about his new boss.
“I got a call and my agent hit me. I was working out, and he was like, ‘Hey man, we just got interest from a team.’ And I’m like OK cool, who? And he was like, ‘New England.’ I said … hold on — how is me and Belchick gonna mesh?” Newton said in a roundtable discussion with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Todd Gurley in July.
Obviously, despite the first reaction, Newton didn’t hesitate to sign with the Patriots, where he’s now in the driver’s seat to win the starting quarterback job.
Now that he’s had some time to get to know Belichick, Newton said he’s been reminded to not always believe in public perception.
“Listen. Listen. There’s a lot of things that I’ll just say that there’s a perception,” a smiling Newton said. “But at the end of the day, it’s football. I’ve loved it ever since I’ve been here. I’ve been here going on a week now. You know … just … you hear rumors about certain things but once you finally get settled in on certain things like that, none of that really matters. It’s just all about finding a way to prove your worth on the team.”
Newton has found himself in a very Cam Newton-esque situation this week, as he faced criticism based on outside perception when former teammate Kyle Love questioned whether the quarterback would be able to handle some of the tough coaching that accompanies a playing career in Foxboro.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Friday that the onus to catch new players up to speed falls on the coaching staff. McDaniels added that Newton’s been open and honest about the process in the early going.
“Knowing him how I do now — and again that’s not to say we’ve had a long relationship — I think he’s a really good communicator. He tells you when he feels comfortable with something and he tells you when he doesn’t,” McDaniels said of his new QB. “I think at the beginning of any relationship, I think that’s a really good place to start. [Saying], ‘Hey I’m going to be trying to move at a pace that suits you, and you just be honest and tell me what I need to do better in terms of trying to communicate it to you.’ So I think he’s done a really good job of that. I’ve talked to some people that have been with him in the past, and, he’s a very coachable guy. This guy wants to work and he’s worked really hard since we signed him. He’s trying to gain every day, which is really all we can ask of him. And again, I think the process of learning how to communicate — and really at the end of the day, coach and motivate each player — that comes with more experience and exposure to him on the field, him handling adversity, what happens when we make mistakes, when we correct ’em, et cetera. And those opportunities I think we’re all looking forward to going through them together, and that’s how you build a good relationship.”
People taking shots at Newton is nothing new, of course, but the quarterback made clear that he cares not to respond to anyone who does so without putting their name to the comment.
“I don’t speak to anonymous people. I speak to real people,” Newton replied when asked about an anonymous coach who said Newton could no longer be Superman. “So if it’s not going by a real name, then there’s no need to give an answer. I’m gonna give you an anonymous answer. It’s irrelevant.”
Irrelevant? Perhaps. But as the previous quarterback in New England could certainly attest, the criticisms only multiply when you call Gillette Stadium home. During his week in the facility, Cam has already gotten a crash course in how perception differs from reality, and that’s something that’s sure to continue as the weeks and months wear on.