Friday, March 12th, 2021

THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Liam Blackburn

Editor

THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Liam Blackburn NFL

This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of Gridiron Weekly, back in 2020 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE



Cam Newton just wants “respect”. And who can blame him.

He’s 31, a former NFL MVP, the Carolina Panthers’ franchise leader in every major passing category and — with the most rushing touchdowns for a quarterback in league history — arguably the most unique dual-threat signal-caller the NFL has ever seen.

And, yet, when he became available this offseason, there was not a clamour for his services, just a collective, deafening silence. Free agency opened and days, weeks, months went past without a peep. Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton — heck, even Mike Glennon — all found new homes. But Cam? He was the forgotten man.

Until Bill Belichick decided to roll the dice again.
 


“And, yet, when he became available this offseason, there was not a clamour for his services, just a collective, deafening silence.”


 
Belichick’s latest ‘gamble’ is about as low risk, high reward as it gets. Newton will cost the New England Patriots just $1.1375million against the cap in 2020 — less than the cap hits for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ryan Griffin and the New York Giants’ Cooper Rush — and he is guaranteed a comparatively paltry $550k. The maximum he will earn is $7.5m.
No wonder Richard Sherman described the deal as “disgusting”. And it should serve as fuel to Newton’s fire in 2020.

Don’t blame the Patriots. They were hamstrung by being up against the cap anyway, with Tom Brady due to count as $13.5m in dead money. Then there’s the usual New England discount that comes when a player wants to work for the greatest head coach in history and play for a team that should still be considered a contender, even without Brady. Instead, blame the other 31 teams for deciding Newton was not worth their time.
 


“Newton’s naysayers will also suggest his larger-than-life persona will have detracted some teams from even considering him as a backup. Why? Because he wears extravagant clothes? Because he likes to have fun and celebrate on the field? Please.”


 
There are, of course, caveats. After the 2018 season — during which he produced, statistically, his best season bar that 2015 MVP campaign, by the way — Newton had surgery on his shoulder. Having played just two regular-season games in 2019, concerns understandably remain about that. Add in the Lisfranc fracture which basically ruled him out for the entire campaign last year and you have another red flag. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, robbing teams of the chance to assess Newton medically. It was the perfect storm.
Newton’s naysayers will also suggest his larger-than-life persona will have detracted some teams from even considering him as a backup. Why? Because he wears extravagant clothes? Because he likes to have fun and celebrate on the field? Please. Give me Newton — a quarterback who’s proven time and again he can win and succeed on the field — over one whose only meaningful contributions are to spew mealy-mouthed, cliché-ridden guff in a news conference.

It’s almost as if Newton needs to prove himself all over again in 2020. History suggests he’s just fine with that.

It was the same in 2009, when he went to play JuCo ‘ball for Blinn College in Texas. Newton had been a Florida Gator, Tim Tebow’s backup in Gainesville, but he left under a cloud, not long after he had been arrested on felony charges — later dropped after a plea deal was reached — over the theft of another student’s laptop.

What followed was Newton’s coming-of-age year, one that ended with a JuCo National Championship and an offer from Auburn.

“He was just the happy-go-lucky, energetic guy that you’ve seen a lot of,” Brad Franchione, his head coach at Blinn, told Gridiron Weekly. “He was very charismatic. Our team naturally enjoyed having him around because he brings so much energy, he’s pretty excited about what he’s doing on the field and very competitive.
 


“The charisma and the competitiveness he brings, his teammates grab it, they feel it.”


 
“The charisma and the competitiveness he brings, his teammates grab it, they feel it. It also helps your team. He was always competing within the team, trying to win no matter what he’s doing — whether it’s in the weight room, on the field, or team competitions.

“That was where he was at his best and it didn’t always have to be football. He was going to try and compete and beat everybody and that’s a characteristic that helps your team get better.”

But could he do it at a major college having not got the chance to prove it at Florida? You betcha. Newton produced one of the finest seasons in college football history in 2010, winning the Heisman, leading Auburn to a national title, accumulating an NCAA-record 4,369 yards of total offense and scoring a combined 51 touchdowns.

Then came the NFL, where the 2011 first overall pick lit up the league as soon as he set foot in it. The first rookie to pass for over 4,000 yards, Newton still holds for the record for the most combined touchdowns (35) and total yardage (4,784) as a first-year player.

His MVP season — when the Panthers went 15-1 and all the way to Super Bowl 50 before being beaten by the Denver Broncos — came after Newton signed a five-year $103.8m deal with $60m in guarantees. He was paid like a franchise quarterback, and boy did he prove it.

Now, in 2020, he will be paid like a third-string quarterback.

“This is not about money for me,” Newton wrote on Instagram, “It’s about respect.”

Newton’s body of work suggests that is the least he deserves, injury concerns or otherwise. And, if he’s healthy in 2020, the reports of the Patriots’ demise will have been greatly exaggerated.



This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of Gridiron Weekly, back in 2020 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE

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