“Yeah, well, Cam is way ahead of where he was last year at this time, there’s no question about that, as you would expect,” Bill Belichick said on Tuesday morning ahead of the Patriots' second minicamp practice via CBS Boston. “He has a good year of experience under his belt, and we’ll start the process at the beginning, and not being in catch-up mode like he was last year.”
Newton didn't sign with New England until June 28, 2020, but teams didn't hold OTAs or minicamps due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so the former NFL MVP didn't miss any practice time.
However, a short window to learn the Patriots' playbook, as well as injuries to himself and key offensive teammates, led to struggles from the veteran quarterback as he looked to have a career resurgence in New England.
“I mean he was really just starting at this point last season, but he’s well ahead of that, just from the year of experience and from the the succession of building blocks that he’s been able to stack up,” Belichick said. “Like all the players that have been here since the start of the OTA and the offseason program back in April, they’ve been able to stack those days and those learning experiences together, ask questions on things that they need clarification on, and build to the next level when they’re ready to put another put another brick on the pile.”
Belichick publicly reaffirmed his stance that the starting quarterback job was Newton's to lose after the Patriots selected Mac Jones at No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and would remain so until Jones or third-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham were "ready to challenge and compete."
"Cam Newton's our quarterback," Belichick said during the Patriots' draft press conference in April. "Whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, we'll see how that goes. But right now for Mac, he's just got a lot of learning in front of him. I know he's very anxious to get going and get started on it."
In March, the Patriots re-signed Newton, despite a disappointing first season with the franchise. The former NFL MVP threw for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while going 7-8 as a starter in 15 games.
Newton and the Patriots agreed to a one-year contract "worth up to $13.6 million," sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Patriots finished the 2020 season with a 7-9 overall record, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Jones led Alabama to a College Football National Championship and was third in the Heisman voting behind teammate DeVonta Smith and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence during his lone season as Alabama's full-time starting quarterback.
Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions on 311 of 402 passing -- while also recording one rushing touchdown -- while leading the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 record in 2020.
Jones also made four starts in the absence of Tua Tagovailoa following a season-ending injury in 2019.