Cam Newton has been working out at Georgia Tech with The Quarterback Whisperer, George Whitfield Jr. As you can see from Whitfield's IG, they're doing a lot of Rocky III's legendary Beach Training Montage, only on the opposite coast, without the homoerotic slow motion thigh closeups, and without a shrill woman who used to work in a pet store selling turtles screaming at Newton that he can't do it and needs to quit.
The Boston Herald has a piece about a Q&A Whitfield posted between him and Newton about the work they're putting in this offseason, and one answer is particularly enlightening:
The first question, Whitfield asked Newton how he’s dealt “with the haters” who continue to doubt him, and how he manages to process that?
“Simple,” Newton said. “Feed your focus. Feed it. If the hate ain’t in my focus, I don’t feed it. I feed off of it, but I don’t feed it. It’s two different things. When I sense or when I dwell on hatred, that’s the product that’s gonna come out: rage, anger. But that’s the hatred using me, not me using the hatred. So I want to process that and make that fuel me. I don’t dwell on what a person may say, what this person may say, she say, I just use it to my advantage and I feed what I want it to feed.”
I have two reactions to this. One - and this should surprise no one because it's what Newton has done in every public statement since a year ago this week when he became the first league MVP to sign with a team that lost a league MVP in NFL history - he said exactly what he should say. Using hatred to your advantage has been the rocket fuel that got the Patriots Dynasty off the launch pad, propelled it into orbit, slingshotted it around the moon and sent it into the heavens. Whether that hatred has been real or only just perceived. And sometimes when it's merely been doubt, the Pats have found ways to turn it to their advantage.
The examples are too numerous to list. But just to mention a few, there's the time the team arrived at Heinz Field for the AFC championship game to find the Steelers' bags packed for the Super Bowl and Lawyer Milloy freaked out at the lack of respect. Rodney Harrison was on back-to-back champions that went 34-4, were probably favorites in every one of those games, and found a reason to say, "Nobody believed in us!" after all of them. Before Super Bowl 39 against the Eagles, Belichick got ahold of Philadelphia's parade plans and read them to the team in the pregame meeting at the hotel.
And that's just before you get to the "cheating scandals" and league rules changing just to stop the things the Pats did better than anyone else. You get the picture. "They Hate Us Cuz They Ain't Us" and "New England vs. the World" are more than just t-shirts that have helped keep the lights on at Barstool for a decade and a half. It's a core philosophy around here. A lifestyle. And Cam Newton saying this proves he's been assimilated into the culture amazingly well for a guy who arrived 366 days or so ago.
But secondly - and more signficantly - if Newton is being asked about "haters," it's important to ask who they are and where they're from. Because the hatred is not coming from Patriots fans by and large. I mean, there are going to be haters. Hell, there were people claiming to be fans of this team calling talk shows to spit venom at Tom Brady while he was winning more rings than he can fit on one hand. Every athlete has them.
But there's this false narrative that's beginning to be pushed that Newton says Newton has been rejected by New England. Thanks to headlines like this:
That is patently false. And needs to be killed in the nest before it grows into a monster.
The fact is that Newton has been respected and appreciated. For his work ethic, his personality, his accountability. The teammate he's been. His effort. His toughness. His impeccable, fashion forward sense of style. He came in under impossible circumstances. Late in an offseason that barely existed in the middle of a worldwide cataclysm. He was tasked with replacing the irreplaceable man. And was going a quality job of it until he got Covid. He came back as soon as he was medically cleared to do so. He took hits that injured people watching from their Lay-Z-Boy recliners and never tapped out. All while giving flat out the best interviews of any sports figure since maybe Pedro Martinez. All while getting paid as much as Joe Cardona.
The issue everyone has is with the results. Which is important, obviously. The world isn't a fair place. So we will embrace Manny Ramirez - a certifiable Froot Loop who routinely faked injuries to get a weekend or two off because he had 100 RBIs by August 1st over some Try Hard 12 home run guy. That's life. Being a great guy like Newton will only get you so far when there are games to be won, playoffs to be made and championships to be competed for.
The thing is, no one has been more up front and self-effacing about not getting the job done last year than Newton. Just another reason why he is, in fact, popular around here. More popular than one would normally be after throwing five more touchdowns (8) than the number of times he was pulled from games (3). Fans were frustrated with the lack of a passing offense. That's not hatred. That's simple honesty. It's not personal, only business.
In a perfect world, Newton will use this perceived hatred his QB guru talked about and use it as Super Soldier Serum (I know he's into Superman, but I'm more of a Captain America guy so I'll make my own analogies) to turn himself back into the player he was 10 years ago. Before the injuries and surgeries and novel respiratory coronaviruses took their toll on him.
In an equally perfect, parallel world, Mac Jones will be the player I thought he was before Belichick used the 15th pick on him, come in ready to go as a Plug & Play, NFL ready quarterback from Week 1 and being a new era in the region and reboot the Dynasty. If that's the case, let's resist the temptation to make up some easy, lazy, false narrative that New England hated Newton while he was here. If that's what helps him grind through a workout, fine. Have at it. Do what you gotta do. Just remember that nothing could be further from the truth.