FOXBOROUGH — Cam Newton acknowledged Thursday he’s felt “stagnant in his thought process” since returning from his COVID-19 exile in early October but blamed it on the time away from the game, not an aftereffect of the virus.
Newton, who never felt any symptoms, missed the Oct. 5 game in Kansas City after returning a positive test.
Though he was able to participate in virtual meetings, Newton couldn’t practice and wasn’t able to transfer what he was learning in class to the field. When he did get back with his teammates, the timing wasn’t there.
“The plays pre-snap production wasn’t happening fast enough for me in games. Did it happen in practice? Yeah. But still not fast enough. And even still now, I can get better,’' said Newton, who has helped lead the Patriots to back-to-back wins. “So, each day, each week is an opportunity for me to really hone in on this offense and just do my job. That’s what it really boils down to.”
Newton brushed aside any talk of a fog caused by the coronavirus.
“No, it’s nothing [related to COVID-19],” Newton said, when asked about his on-field struggles during the three-game skid when he returned. “It’s just the fact that I wasn’t able to do anything for that stint while I was off, and it showed. Coming back pretty much dry and knowing that as this offense goes, it evolves. And the mastermind behind everything with Josh [McDaniels], his mind doesn’t necessarily stop.
“Whether it’s a new play, whether it’s something that we’re watching [from] back in 2002, 2011, ’12, he has a plethora of plays for certain defenses that we face that he goes to, and it all starts before the snap with identifying certain things. Identifying, communicating, with the offensive line, with the receivers, with the running backs — it’s my job to do so.
“And coming back from [COVID-19], when I did come back, I just felt behind. And the production here of late is nothing to blame more or less than me just taking ownership and responsibility that I’ve just got to be better.”
Newton, who is completing 71.4 percent of his passes over the last three weeks, reiterated that the only statistic that matters to him is wins.
“I’m a quarterback that likes to win, so I don’t care if [it’s] running, throwing, whatever,’' he said. “I want to win. I’m here to win. Anybody that’s in that huddle, they want to win, too. Everybody in that locker room, they want to win, too.’'
Watson a fan
Newton wannabes are everywhere.
The Patriots quarterback need look only as far as his own locker room to find three teammates — Jakobi Meyers, Isaiah Zuber, and Terez Hall — who participated in Newton’s 7-on-7 camps during their high school days.
On Sunday, Newton will face off against his camp’s most accomplished alumnus: Deshaun Watson.
The Texans quarterback has long idolized Newton and will soon fulfill a dream of competing against him. Newton was on the shelf last year when the Panthers and Texans played.
“Cam is a big brother to me, a mentor since high school,’' Watson told reporters in Houston on Wednesday. “He’s a guy I based my game at a young age around what he did. He was the reason I watched Auburn. He’s always been my favorite quarterback.’'
Newton knew Watson “was a star” back then.
“He just had so much arm talent at such a young age,’' Newton said.
Gang is all here
The Patriots had perfect practice attendance from the 53-man roster for the second straight day. In addition, running back Sony Michel (quadriceps) and offensive lineman Justin Herron (ankle), who are on injured reserve, practiced. The club has until Nov. 26 to activate Michel and Dec. 9 to activate Herron.
Practice squad receiver Zuber and practice squad tight end Jake Burt weren’t spotted during the media window. It was the second straight absence for Zuber, who has played in four games this season. Burt’s absence was curious given he just returned from an IR stint on Wednesday.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater was the lone change on the injury report as he was added as a limited participant with a knee problem. Also limited: cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee), linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley (groin) and Hall (shoulder), defensive tackles Lawrence Guy (shoulder, elbow, knee) and Adam Butler (shoulder), defensive ends John Simon (elbow) and Deatrich Wise (knee, hand), guards Joe Thuney (ankle) and Shaq Mason (calf), left tackle Isaiah Wynn (ankle), running back Damien Harris (ankle, chest), tight end Ryan Izzo (hamstring, hand), and kicker Nick Folk (back).