Cam Newton named Patriots’ starting quarterback, team captain

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) winds up for a pass during an NFL football training camp practice, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)
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For the first time in nearly two decades, the Patriots will hit opening day with a new starter under center.

That starter is Cam Newton.

Newton was informed during a team meeting Thursday before practice, a league source confirmed to the Herald. He was also voted one of three offensive captains by his teammates. Newton outperformed Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer throughout training camp for the right to succeed Tom Brady.

He completed a higher percentage of passes in live team periods than Hoyer and recorded half as many interceptions as Stidham, despite throwing double the number of passes. Newton also adds a new dimension to the Pats’ run game, as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history.

He will lead the Patriots against the Dolphins in their Sept. 13 season opener at Gillette Stadium at 1 p.m.

The former MVP officially joined the Pats in early July after being released from Carolina, where he played the first nine years of his career. Faced with an unusually poor free-agent market, he signed a one-year, prove-it deal. From then on, Newton quickly won over teammates and coaches in Foxboro.

It started with his health. Injuries to Newton’s shoulder and foot prematurely ended his last two seasons and required surgery in Carolina. With the Patriots, Newton opened training camp in perfect health, showcasing a strong arm and dangerous running ability during practices.

Inside the locker room, teammates were drawn to his effervescence.

“Cam has been a joy to be around. He brings positive energy to work every day. He loves his job. He’s just a fun guy to be around,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said recently. “I’m glad that we’ve gotten a chance to spend some time with him as a teammate and really get to know him.”

At training camp practices, Newton could be seen dancing every day during stretching and engaging with teammates on both sides of the ball. He developed handshakes with each of his wide receivers and worked together in side sessions during special teams periods. Newton celebrated his big plays, as well as Stidham’s and Hoyer’s, never letting a quiet moment pass outside Gillette Stadium.

“Anybody who knows me knows it’s all about a vibe that you have to set and you curate. And in essence, you want to change that word vibe, (so) it more or less becomes the standard,” Newton said last week. “Walking into this locker room, it’s been such a good energy here that I just want to make sure that I do my part. And even though we may have a lackluster day offensively, it’s just my job as one of the default leaders in my position to make sure that everybody knows we have to become better.

“We have to make sure we hold each other accountable. And that’s all I’m trying to do each and every day.”

Over barely a summer, Newton has established himself as a unique presence in the long, storied history of the franchise. He is the rare Patriot to become a captain in his first year during the Bill Belichick era. This week, Belichick said no player has worked harder.

In an interview with SiriusXM radio, Belichick also lauded Newton’s personality — saying he gets along with everyone in the facility — and the quarterbacks’ competitive drive.

“Everybody is competitive, but I just think there are different degrees of it. Based on what I’ve seen I’d put him in the top echelon of that,” Belichick said. “His competition extends way beyond the field. It’s off the field, in meetings, training and so forth. It’s important to him be the first guy up the hill when we run sprints. It’s important to him to be first in everything he competes in.

“You see the effort and the amount of energy he puts into that. Those are some of the things that have jumped out in the month or so we’ve been here in person.”

Despite his success, Newton, as recently as last week, denied that the label of starter meant much to him. He was too focused on his day-to-day process; learning the offense, getting to know his teammates and developing into the captain he would eventually become.

“Every day is a work day for me, and that label is not important to me right now because I know I have so much that I need to get better at,” Newton said. “So much that I need to learn, so much that I need to be comfortable with. And throughout this process, that’s the last thing that I’m pretty much worried about.”

Now, he doesn’t have to worry.

The title and job are Newton’s. In 10 days, it will be time for Superman to throw on his cape again and see if he can carry the Patriots back to their old heights in a new era.