Tue, 29 Sep 2020

QBs strike a positive chord

New England Patriots
08 Aug 2020, 20:34 GMT+10

For the first time in nearly 20 years the identity of the Patriots quarterback isn't certain heading into training camp. Tom Brady is gone and there are three candidates, albeit in very different situations, here to potentially replace him.

That trio spoke for the first time this season on Friday, and if anyone was expecting any brash statements or hurt feelings, they left disappointed.

All three spoke like professionals, expressing the desire to compete and improve and be the best teammates they could be. While it was not necessarily unexpected to hear Patriots players speak in such a manner, it was refreshing to listen to three players who all had the potential to be disappointed leave their personal situations aside for the better of the team.

Let's start with Brian Hoyer, who was the first to speak. The veteran backup re-signed in New England early in the offseason with the intention of competing for the starting job. Months later the team signed Cam Newton. Was he upset about the possibility that things may have changed as a result?

"For me you're competing every day you go out," Hoyer said. "Regardless of what the spot is it's always a competition and Bill [Belichick] has said numerous times you earn what you get. So, for me it doesn't matter if there's 15 guys in the room I'm always competing.

"When Tom was here I was always competing for the starting job too. Now, I was probably never going to get that but I always competed like I was going to try to beat him out and that's the only thing I can do to try to make myself better. The more good players you add to the room, a group, the offense, the defense, the team it's always going to raise the level of everyone else. But it's something I look forward to."

Next was Newton, the former NFL MVP who took a below-market deal as July approached with no other apparent suitors interested in handing him the reins. Despite his impressive resume, Newton said he doesn't expect anything other than the chance to win a job.

"As far as competing you compete every year," Newton said. "It doesn't matter how much a person is paid, how much experience a person has I think we all are competing every single day. At the end of the day you're one game away, as I've learned in this past year, and it's about proving your worth and doing your part."

Asked if he felt he had anything to prove after being unceremoniously dumped in Carolina despite all his success, Newton again struck a positive chord.

"I don't have to prove nothing, because at the end of the day I don't think anyone's expectations for me will ever surpass my expectations for myself," he said. "I'm just looking forward to the challenge of picking up this whole system and also how things are run."

More importantly, Newton expressed optimism regarding his health, which is the reason he was available this offseason in the first place. Shoulder and foot problems have impacted his past two seasons greatly, but as of now he reports it's all systems go.

"Just right now, for me, the season's not here yet, so I do still have time," the 31-year-old Newton said. "Working with the training staff here as well as having all the outlets at your disposal to get better and be as confident as I can be come opening day or when the team may need you, I think that's the most important thing.

"As far as how I feel right now, I feel amazing. I feel great. Probably not any different from any other person who's in that locker room right now. So I'm extremely optimistic about that. But through it all, it's just putting yourself in the position to be in the best shape and have your body in the best possible situation when you actually need it."

Finally, Stidham stepped to the plate and the youngster showed poise beyond his years. Instead of expressing any resentment over Newton's arrival, the second-year quarterback opted to embrace the challenge and spoke of the importance of leadership and improving.

I was back in Texas visiting family," Stidham said when asked where he was when he found out Newton would be added to the competition. "Honestly I was excited. What a great opportunity to compete with another great player. I'm really excited for the opportunity ahead.

"I think I've approached the offseason the same from January until now. I feel more confident with a year under my belt. I've approach the offseason that way the entire time. I just want to continue to be a leader on this team and be the best teammate I can be to the guys in the locker room."

The real work is yet to be done as installation work and overall conditioning have dominated the early days thus far. The team won't go at it in earnest for at least another week or so. Newton obviously has the most to learn in terms of the offense but his credentials suggest he also has the most to work with.

The real competition will start toward the end of the month, and at that point we'll begin to see how the direction of the Patriots offense might change depending on which man will be at the helm. But based on Friday's initial briefing, leadership doesn't appear to be an issue.

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