By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Newton has been reporting to work in Foxboro for a little over a month. Bill Belichick has been impressed.
Really, really, really impressed.
The head coach was interviewed on Sirius XM radio this week and was asked about his new quarterback. Belichick’s answer was quite extensive. As in, more than two straight minutes of uninterrupted praise.
Here’s what Belichick said:
You know, I can see why he had the kind of success that he had at Auburn and at Carolina, and in talking to people that were with him there, the things that they said about him at Auburn and at Carolina from a decade ago or two, three years ago, or even last year, it was all the same. And it showed up here.
He’s an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does. He’s here early, he stays late, and he works very hard. Some players like to work on things that they’re good at. Like if you’re strong on the bench press, then you just keep throwing more weight on the bench. But Cam’s the type of player that works on things that he’s not as good at and really tries to improve on a daily basis.
And that’s something that I really respect about him. Like, that’s not easy for players — really any of us — to do: Look at something that we don’t feel like we’re very good at or it’s not one of our strengths and put extra time into it. I would say that the natural tendency is to do things you’re good at.
So he’s worked extremely hard in all those areas. He’s got a great personality, gets along with everybody. He’s very social and has a great presence, whether it’s in a small room of a couple people or in a bigger group. And he’s highly competitive. He’s very, very competitive on the field. He always wants to do his best and do better than the guy he’s competing against.
You see that from — you know, everybody’s competitive — but I think there are different degrees of it. And it looks like, based on what I’ve seen, I would put him in the top echelon of that.
But his competition extends way beyond the field. It’s off the field and in meetings and training and so forth. It’s important for him to be the first guy up the hill when we run sprints, and it’s important for him to be first in everything that he competes in. And you can see the effort and the amount of energy that he puts into that.
So I’d say those are some of the things that have jumped out in the month or so that we’ve been here in person.
"Nobody works harder than @CameronNewton."
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) August 31, 2020
Was that Robert Plant or Bill Belichick? Because that sure was a Whole Lotta Love.
Unnecessary connections to 1969 rock songs aside, Belichick’s praise of his new quarterback certainly stood out for a variety of reasons.
Most pressing is the alleged quarterback competition taking place in Foxboro. One might reasonably assume that the Patriots’ head coach would not have spent so much time praising Jarrett Stidham’s backup.
Less pressing is the difficult-to-ignore comparison between this and the way Belichick often spoke about Tom Brady, particularly in the wake of Belichick’s “we’re not talking about open-heart surgery here” comment getting some new life this week.
To some extent, that is true, as Belichick didn’t often go off for 138 seconds about how great Brady was. But Belichick spent plenty of time praising Brady over the years, uttering the line “there’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady” countless times and likewise saying “nobody’s worked harder than Tom” quite often.
The Belichick-Brady dynamic may make this Newton praise more appealing from the national talking head perspective, yet even with Brady gone to Tompa Bay, there’s not a whole lot of substance there. Belichick spoke glowingly of Brady a million times, no matter how anyone tries to spin things now. (I saw multiple ESPN segments devoted to turning this Newton praise into a thinly veiled shot at Brady on Tuesday morning. People sure do love their soap operas, don’t they?)
From a Patriots perspective, though, one can wonder if Belichick feels like he has to issue this praise to prop up Newton, or if the head coach simply wanted to say some nice things about his new quarterback.
Either one is possible, sure. But Belichick hasn’t often wasted time and energy praising his own players if he doesn’t mean it. It would appear as though Belichick took a flier on a once-great player who could be great again, and the head coach is simply quite happy with the early returns on that investment.