Patriots' Cam Newton Says 2021 Season Is 'Put Up or Shut Up' Time

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJuly 15, 2021

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) passes the ball during an NFL football practice, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton sees the 2021 season as time to "put up or shut up," as he told ESPN Radio's Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin (h/t Mike Reiss of ESPN).

Newton is entering his second season with the Patriots after a disappointing first year in which he totaled just eight touchdown passes with 10 interceptions in 15 games. The team finished 7-9 to break a streak of 19 straight seasons with a winning record.

The 32-year-old got a new one-year deal this offseason, but he now has to live up to expectations.

"For me, the Patriots organization has been impeccable ... my time there has been everything I could have asked for," Newton said Thursday. "I guess it's now time for me to uphold my end of the bargain, through and through."

Newton is currently considered the starter for New England and took first-team reps during spring practices, per Reiss, but Mac Jones is the quarterback of the future after being selected 15th overall in the 2021 draft.

Not only could Newton be on a short leash if he struggles early in the season, but he might also not be long for New England. It keeps the pressure on the 11th-year veteran to succeed early to keep his job and potentially earn starting opportunities elsewhere.

"We play in a sport that is strictly based off the final product," Newton said. "And the final product is on game days. With that being said, it's just going to come down to winning and losing."

The 2015 NFL MVP still has plenty of upside, excelling with his legs last season with 592 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Patriots also upgraded the pass-catchers around him this offseason, signing tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor in free agency.

Perhaps most importantly, Newton has an entire offseason to prepare in Year 2. He didn't join the Patriots until last July, which only exacerbated the lack of in-person practices due to COVID-19.

A full year to learn the playbook and extra time to develop chemistry with his teammates could lead to a much better team and individual performance in 2021.