Cam Newton turned and pointed to his name on the imaginary big board, mimicking the team meetings between coaches and general managers which took place in war rooms all across the NFL during the darkest days of his career.
“OK, fellas. Cam Newton,” one decision-maker says in a raspy voice — at least in Newton’s performance of the scene. They’re going down a list, and the former MVP is the next topic of discussion. “What do we think?”
Another decision-maker shakes his head. After all he has accomplished, and all that he has proven, for whatever reason, the former Auburn superstar is unwanted.
Newton imagines that same conversation played out all through the league during his 86 days without a team this offseason. He knows for sure which teams never called his agent, and which ones balked when he asked about them.
So when he sees them on the schedule, he sees them as targets now that he has signed with the New England Patriots. Newton has made a list for his NFL revenge tour.
“That’s the disrespect that I felt,” Newton said, back in reality.
Newton said all this in a recent, hour-long, sit-down discussion with fellow NFL stars Odell Beckham Jr., Todd Gurley and Vic Cruz, entitled ‘The Bigger Picture’ and posted to Beckham’s YouTube channel this week. He opened up in-depth for the first time publicly about his departure from the Carolina Panthers, about his signing with the Patriots, and about the long wait between.
It was indeed 86 days, and he knows that because he counted. Newton was unceremoniously dumped by Carolina in March and was only offered a one-year, incentive-laden deal by the New England after almost three months of uncertainty.
But, while sitting down with friends for the conversation filmed in Los Angeles, smoking a cigar and dressed in his unmistakable style, Newton flashed his familiar smile and captivated with his charisma again — impersonating those teams that passed him up in just one moment of the extended special. The group also discussed serious topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and what life has been like for them facing COVID-19.
And, as for football, Newton revealed that he has that list now and is itching to lash out on the field at those teams that passed him up.
“I’m looking at the schedule,” Newton explained, “and I’m like, ‘Who do we play?’”
He mimed his finger moving down a checklist. “‘That team passed on me.’ OK. ‘That team passed on me.’ ‘They could’ve came and got me.’ ‘They hollered at me.’”
Newton won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship at Auburn in 2010, and after being picked first overall by the Panthers, he led Carolina to the Super Bowl in 2015 while winning the league MVP the same season.
His stellar play was hampered by injuries in each of the past two seasons, and after Carolina overhauled the entire organization from the ownership down this spring, Newton was left out in the cold and for whatever reason left untouched by NFL franchises with other plans — until the wily Patriots picked him up to see if they can’t replace one MVP-caliber talent with another, and keep on winning.
“We have to talk about the elephant in the room,” Newton said. The elephant is Tom Brady, who left New England for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “It’s like, ‘You know who you’re coming after.’ And I’m like, yeah. Great. What he was, what he is, is great. Needs no even talking about it.
“But one thing about it, though: ‘Coach McDaniels, you’re able to call some stuff that you ain’t never been able to call now,’” he said, alluding to his unique size and speed, and calling out to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “‘You’re getting a dog. You’re getting one of these ticked off dogs, too.’”
Carolina released Newton on March 24 after a messy breakup between the team and its former face of the franchise, which spilled out publicly on social media.
“They called me after the fact,” Newton said of Carolina decision-makers. “Basically, they called me with the decision already made. It was in the book. I’m going to be professional. I answered the phone call, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir’ — that’s how my mom raised me. But in the back of my mind, I’m like, ‘Bro, y’all have got some nerve.’
“I done gave this whole city, I done gave this whole franchise, I gave the coaches everything — my mind, my body, my soul, my heart. And this is how y’all treat me, bro? And I said in an interview before, I never once wanted to leave. Y’all pushed me out because y’all didn’t believe in me.”
Newton still believes in himself, it’s clear. And yes, revenge seems to be on Newton’s heart for this fall, if the NFL is able to kick off with the coronavirus surging. Newton takes the virus seriously, saying it’s tough and scary, and that he seen people close to him be infected and affected.
“I think the first time in our lifetime, there is, probably, something where we don’t know what the fix is,” Newton said. “I think that’s the issue. It’s an invisible monster.”
The NFL is still currently scheduled to kick off its regular season in September. If it does, Newton will be along for the ride.
“People look at me and they’re like, ‘Cam, why are you growing your hair out? Why are you dressed the way you’re dressed? Cam, why do you act the way you act?’” Newton said. “I’m like, ‘Bro, it’s to empower uniqueness.’ We’ve all got money. But at the same time we all are blessed and have a platform to be able to empower people.
“And the only thing that I want to do is motive people to just be yourself, bro. You know what I’m saying? Be you.”