The Patriots arms race is on.
Cam Newton may be in New England, but that doesn’t mean the former MVP is guaranteed a spot at the top of the quarterback depth chart.
He’ll have to earn it.
The Patriots will approach the quarterback spot the same way they treat every other position — with an open competition, this one among Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, and Brian Lewerke.
“We’ve got a long way to go and we’ll see how things turn out,” Bill Belichick said Friday when asked about the position that Tom Brady had a stranglehold on the last two decades. “I can’t control how players perform; that’s up to them. We’ll give everyone an opportunity and see what happens.”
Belichick spoke with reporters (on a WebEx call) for the first time since April’s draft, touching on a number of topics, including COVID-19 testing, players opting out, Newton’s acquisition, the lack of a preseason, changes in his staff, and, of course, his Subway commercial.
As for the courtship of Newton, Belichick said the sides spent a lot of time talking and it was clear there was “mutual interest.” Several people in the organization talked with Newton before a deal was struck.
“We had a number of different conversations, and just trying to see how the fit would be, and it was positive on our end and I’m glad it worked out,’' the coach said.
Belichick said he spoke with all six players (Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale, and Najee Toran) who opted out of the season over coronavirus concerns and he “totally respects and supports 100 percent” their decisions.
Players could have up to another week to decide whether to play or not, and Belichick wasn’t about to make any guesses.
“My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea what will happen along those lines,” said Belichick, who credited the Kraft family with upgrading the Gillette Stadium facilities in response to the pandemic. “I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. We’ll just have to see how it turns out.‘'
The Patriots have yet to have any players test positive for the coronavirus, and Belichick made it clear he isn’t permitted to reveal anyone’s test results, though it’s up to individuals if they want to make it public.
With no exhibition games on the docket, Belichick likened the condensed preseason to what college programs do year in and year out.
“We’ll just have to take advantage of our practice opportunities and create as much combination of competition to evaluate the players and also situations to get our players ready to play in regular-season games, and combine those things as we go forward,” he said.
“So, it’ll be a little bit different setup, but that’s what college teams do every year. You go to camp for three weeks and then you start the season. There are no preseason games. You evaluate your team and you get ready to play. That’s what all college football teams do. So, I don’t think it’s anything revolutionary here.‘'
As for his small staff shakeup, Belichick said he’s especially excited to work with new quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, who worked for 11 franchises before landing in Foxborough and, according to Belichick, has already floated some new ideas to the staff. Fisch’s evaluations will be key as the Patriots settle on their signal-caller of the future.
“Jedd’s got a lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball,” said Belichick. “He brings a lot of experience and wisdom to our staff.”
Belichick was popular on social media in July when video of him shooting a Subway commercial made the rounds.
“It was a fun commercial to do — and everybody loves sandwiches,” joked Belichick, who said the spot would help fund some of the initiatives of his charitable foundation. “I know I am going to get killed in the rookie [talent] shows on this. I know that is going to happen, but I will just have to swallow it.”