By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Newton’s return to Carolina didn’t end up going as well as he had hoped.

Though the quarterback said he gained some “closure” and learned a lot about himself over the past two months, the veteran QB ended up losing the starting job quickly, left to watch Sam Darnold from the sidelines. After Cam and the Panthers won their first game post-reunion, the team lost its final seven games to finish the year at 5-12.

Newton, of course, spent the months of September and October without an NFL job, after getting released by the Patriots in favor of Mac Jones. With more job uncertainty looming, Newton said he’d like to keep playing in the NFL — but with some qualifiers.

“I can tell you, do I have a lot of football, do I want to play? Yeah. But under the right conditions,” Newton said. “To be honest with you, I’m not in it for no other reasons but to win. Not the money, it’s not about money to me. It’s just about winning. It has always been about winning. But more than ever, it’s even more about winning. So that’s what it’s pretty much going to come down to.”

Newton said he still enjoys playing the game, and that he believes he’s still plenty talented enough to play the quarterback position at the highest level.

“I know my skill-set is way better than just a fourth-and-inches type of person, I can tell you that,” Newton said, indicating he’s not looking to assume a gimmick type of role.

Newton also said it was an odd feeling to be the backup in Carolina at the end of the year.

“Yeah, I mean — woof. I wasn’t used to that,” Newton said. “I made a joke to D.J. [Moore] during the game, I was like, ‘Bro, my body don’t even feel right right now. My toes going to sleep.’ But at this particular point in time, I’m a team player. I look at life differently.”

But the 32-year-old father of five also said that he’ll have to weigh a number of factors before fully dedicating himself to a return to football. And the desire to win continued to be his main focus — even if that means taking on a lesser role.

“Selfishly, the question can be kind of directed towards, do you think I can play? Yes, I still do think I can play at a high level, absolutely. But if an opportunity presents itself where I don’t necessarily need to play and it’s about winning, yeah, I’m willing to do that, too,” Newton said. “Because this point forward, I’m not coming back for no 5-12. I’ll tell you that now. Winning makes everything better. So to what degree I’m willing to do — whether being the starter or not — if it’s about winning, I’m with it. And then if it’s not, then I won’t hitch my wagon to it.”

Whatever the future may hold — whether it’s another NFL job or a return to the life he led between his Patriots career and Panthers reunion — Newton seems to be at peace with his position.

“I am a free agent. This is no new feeling for me. I just have time to wait,” Newton said. “I’m healthy, I know what I can do, I know what my worth is, and I’ve played this game long enough to have some sustainability financially, physically. And when it’s all said and done, man, whether it’s waking up at 5 to work out, to take my kids to school and daycare, or it’s waking up at 5 to get a head start on the game plan, I’ll be ready to rock and roll either way.”