(The Charlotte Observer) - In his first press conference since becoming a New England Patriot, quarterback Cam Newton said Friday he has no ill feelings toward the Carolina Panthers.
“I wish those guys nothing but the best,” Newton said of his former team in Charlotte, “and I hope that the feeling is mutual.”
Newton quarterbacked Carolina for most of the past nine years, but the team released him in March and quickly signed Teddy Bridgewater. Newton stayed unemployed for more than two months — “the wait was so long,” he said — before being signed to a modest one-year deal by the Patriots. At New England, Newton will compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer for the Patriots’ starting job following Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay.
Newton mostly played it straight as he answered questions for the first time from reporters who cover the Patriots on Friday, nearly a month after the team announced the signing. He said the move has been “a breath of fresh air” and that, as far as proving himself to anyone else: “I don’t have to prove nothing.”
The quarterback has taken a few things with him to New England, including his penchant for nicknaming every teammate. With training camp barely underway, Hoyer was already become “Hoyster” to Newton, while Stidham is “Stiddy.”
Newton said in a recent roundtable discussion with several other NFL players that he felt “disrespected” because he didn’t have a job for several months. Every team in the NFL had had to say in this offseason, in Newton’s words: ‘OK, fellas, Cam Newton — what do we think? Ahhhh ... pass.”
Friday, though, Newton answered questions in the way that dour New England coach Bill Belichick had to have loved. He praised the Patriots’ professionalism. He said wide receiver Julian Edelman had likened learning the New England offense to “calculus.” He didn’t take the bait when one questioner referred to a report where an anonymous coach had said Newton’s production had dropped because of his commitment to a vegan diet.
“I don’t speak to anonymous people,” Newton said. “I speak to real people.”
As for his time in Carolina and the unemployment he experienced afterward, Newton said: “Look, I wake up mad, you know what I’m saying?”
Just when it seemed Newton was about to start a riff on disrespect, though, he changed gears. “The fact that I’m not able to see my kids on a regular basis, that’s what makes me mad,” Newton added. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to dwell on the past. ... It’s just turn the page and move forward.”
While Newton, 31, has struggled mightily with shoulder and foot injuries the past several years, he said at the moment he is “full go” and that he feels “amazing.” He has continued with his vegan diet and explained it Friday by saying he was trying to stay away from “bad calories.”
“So we replace the candies with the fruits, and different snacks with healthier snacks,” Newton said. “When you’re asking your body to perform at a high level, it’s easier for you to do that rather than doing something that’s pulling in the opposite direction for your body to recover.”
As for playing for the six-time Super Bowl champions, Newton said: “I wake up pinching myself each and every day. It’s so surreal.”
The Panthers and Patriots don’t play each other in the 2020 regular season. They were supposed to play during the preseason, but that was canceled as the NFL adapts to a new schedule in the face of a global pandemic.