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New England Patriots' Cam Newton says it's 'too early to tell' if he'd accept backup QB job

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton acknowledged that he didn't have the 2020 season he had hoped for, but he stopped short of saying he would accept a backup role as he considers free-agent options this offseason.

"Honestly, it's too early to tell. That's as honest as I can be," Newton said Monday in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI in Boston. "Do I think I have starting talent? Absolutely. Do I think a lot of things that I've done were devalued? Not the team's perspective, probably the media's perspective -- absolutely."

Newton, 31, added that he understands that quarterbacks are heavily scrutinized and that it's not a job for the "weakhearted" before saying: "I just really need some time for myself to really reevaluate this whole situation."

Newton saved one of his best performances for the final game of the Patriots' 7-9 season. In Sunday's 28-14 win over the New York Jets, he was 21-of-30 for 242 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He rushed for 79 yards on 11 carries -- which included a quarterback franchise-record 49-yard run -- and added a 19-yard touchdown catch.

"I know out of 32 guys, I'm not the 32 position rank. So you have to also understand, I'm a competitor first. I know what my skill set is, I know what my talent is. I understand that if given the opportunity, there is nobody better than me. That's how I'll always feel. I have to also feel realistic about the opportunity that is presented as well," Newton said in the radio interview.

"If you are asking me, Do I want to be a backup? Hell no! When I look at other teams, and I'm looking at other players play, there have been guys that have been getting away with murder for years because of subpar play. Do I have the right to say that with the year I had this year? No. But I'm going to be honest and say it because that's what I do."

Newton finished the year 242-of-368 passing (65.8%) for 2,657 yards, with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added 592 rushing yards on 137 carries (4.3 average), with 12 touchdowns.

As for his possible return to New England in 2021, Newton said he has yet to talk to coach Bill Belichick, although he sounded resigned in his video conference last week that he would be moving on, referencing plans to keep in touch with teammates in the future. He said Monday morning that it would be "remarkable" if Belichick decided he wanted him to return.

Newton previously shared that one of his top regrets was joining the Patriots after last offseason, which will be on his mind as he approaches free agency.

"That's definitely going to go into consideration," he said on WEEI. "I'm not going to wait to the latter part of another season when I have an opportunity to do something or sign with someone. I think I put myself at a disadvantage [with] that. You just live and learn."

Newton said that one of his primary goals was to make it through the season healthy, which he accomplished.

"Through it all, my shoulder held up, foot held up, mental held up," he said. "I had nicks and bruises, but who doesn't have any nicks and bruises in the NFL? Nothing lingering enough to stop me. I'm going to take that as a blessing and do it in the offseason."

Newton added this is the first offseason in five or six years that he's been healthy.

"I have to obviously work on my mechanics. I have to obviously throw the football sooner rather than the latter part of last year," he said. "Those things, I'm going to be focused on as we get geared up for offseason."