New England Patriots' Cam Newton regrets missing offseason to learn system

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton reflected on his challenging 2020 season in a lengthy, passionate videoconference Thursday that had the feel of an exit interview in which he was saying goodbye.

"My only regret was I wish I had more time to dissect what I was actually getting in to," Newton said when asked if there was anything he could have done differently to contribute to more personal success.

"I've been in this league long enough to kind of always downplay, like, 'Man, we don't need preseason. We don't need OTAs. We're ready to go.' Yeah, maybe if I was still in the system I came from. But learning this system, you just need more time, you need more real reps to kind of go through because there's only but so much you can kind of make up.

"You could put the eyelashes on. You could do your eyebrows. You could put your lipstick on. The mascara and the lip liner. But sooner or later, it's going to rain and the real true you will show. And unfortunately it showed -- not necessarily in ways that I wanted to."

Newton, who spent most of the offseason as a free agent before signing a modest one-year deal with the Patriots on July 8, leads New England into its season finale Sunday against the visiting New York Jets (CBS, 1 p.m. ET). Despite saying he doesn't know what the future holds, he hinted this will be his last game for the Patriots (6-9), noting there are teammates he still plans on having connections with in the future.

In 14 games as Tom Brady's replacement this season, Newton is 221-of-338 for 2,415 yards passing, with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added 513 rushing yards in 126 carries, with 12 touchdowns. Newton tested positive for the coronavirus in early October, missing one game, and played through an abdomen injury in early December.

But Newton said the hardest part of 2020 was being away from his children, which included missing two birthday parties, Christmas and milestone moments such as his son's first steps.

"All of those things, being unemployed for 86 nights, yeah, that's tough. Having injuries, yeah, that's tough. Going through this season and you can kind of assume what a juggernaut media market that Boston is. ... The slander that comes with living up to the TB12 expectations; yeah, all of that is tough. You hear it. [But] none of it is even a close second to not being able to see your children. And then on top of that, you're sucking? Ah, man.

"For me, I still can be better. I still can be more consistent. Some of the throws that I've had, I wish I would have had back. But yet nobody cares about the circumstances, nobody cares about the waves or the tide that's in the water. They just care about you just reeling that ship on in, and I didn't do that consistently enough."

Newton, 31, called himself a "mentally tough S.O.B" when asked what he has learned about himself, saying his focus on optimism helped.

"It was almost like going under the hood for me -- working on my attitude, patience, faith, the resilient side of you. What are you going to do when things aren't so good?" he said.

"Because at times during this year, it was like, 'God, what are you doing? What are you trying to tell me?' It teaches you patience. It teaches you to have faith and understanding that, listen, sooner or later, you're going to get a break.

"I'm not looking for no handouts. And 2020, I'm about to sign, seal [and] tie this year up, put a big knot on it. I can buy every single lock, key and throw away all of them. I don't want to see no part of 2020. But it made me a better person. That, I do believe."