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After a New England Patriots debut season that saw Cam Newton throw more interceptions than touchdowns, the former NFL MVP says he has heard the retirement chatter.
He's not having it.
In an appearance on the "I Am Athlete" podcast with former NFL players Chad Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Fred Taylor, Newton made it clear he intends to keep playing. And he believes he's still a starting quarterback in the NFL.
'I can't go out like that'
"Hell no," Newton said of retirement. "I can't go out like that. I hear all of that talk. My pride won't allow me to do it. There aren't 32 guys better than me."
Coming off two injury-riddled seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Newton, 31, looked little like the electric quarterback who accompanied his Superman persona during his MVP prime.
He started strong as the Patriots won two of their first three games with Newton under center. Newton combined for six touchdowns against two turnovers in the 2-1 start, lending hope in New England that the Patriots could find success after Tom Brady.
COVID-19 stunts Newton's season
Newton contracted COVID-19 and didn't suit up for a Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. When he returned in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos, the Patriots' offense went stagnant, and New England embarked on a three-game losing streak. When the season was over, the Patriots had missed the playoffs at 7-9, and Newton had tallied eight passing touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
The one-season experiment in New England was far from a success.
Did COVID-19 play a role in Newton's performance?
Newton said that he didn't suffer major symptoms of COVID-19 outside of the loss of smell. When he returned to the New England lineup, he felt like the lost time proved a steep setback for a quarterback in a new system, especially coming off a stunted preseason.
"By the time I came back, I didn't feel comfortable physically, skillfully," Newton said. "A lot of that discomfort came pre-snap. ...
"I'm lost. I'm thinking too much. ... The offense kept going, and I was stopped and stagnant for two weeks. By the time I came back, it was new terminology. ... I wasn't just trying to learn a system for what it was, I was learning a — let's be honest — a 20-year system in two months."
Cam on re-signing with Patriots: 'Hell, yes'
So does Newton, a pending free agent, want another shot in New England even if it arrives with another one-year deal?
“Yes. Hell, yes,” Newton said. “I’m getting tired of changing. I’m at the point in my career where I know way more than I knew last year.”
Whether the Patriots want Newton back is an entirely different question. After the bitter taste of third place in the AFC East, they may be ready to turn the page. For now there's not an apparent answer at quarterback in New England.
If New England — or any other prospective Newton suitor — is looking for a bright side from Newton's 2020 campaign, it's that he was still effective as a runner, tallying 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground on 4.3 yards per carry.
Cam talks about former college teammate Aaron Hernandez
Newton didn't stick strictly to football during the free-flowing discussion on the podcast. The topic of Aaron Hernandez also came up. Newton played in college at Florida with the former NFL player who died in prison of suicide while serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
He said that the Hernandez he knew was a different man.
"I saw the younger him," Newton said. "The way he's portrayed as a villain, that's not him. Don't get me wrong, in all respects of what happened, there were bodies that were damaged, and I'm not denying what was done was bad. But I knew a beautiful soul. He was fun loving, and he just wanted to make it to the league."
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