The world has long known about the special (and at times superhuman) abilities of Cameron Jerrell Newton.
Bill Belichick likely did well before this summer, too, especially considering how their two on-field meetings turned out (Newton 2, Belichick 0). The usually stoic and, well, bland coach did something a little out of character on Monday now that Newton is on his team: He showered the quarterback with compliments.
"Being with him every day, he's an extremely hard-working player. First guy in, last one out type of guy," Belichick said of Newton during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. "He's really studied hard and has spent a lot of extra time trying to learn our offense, our communication, our calls, nomenclature. I've been very impressed with that. He's done a very good job of picking it up. He's a very skilled athlete."
None of this is revelatory information. We all know how skilled Newton is, and his Instagram and YouTube channel will hit you over the head with how hard he works. Hearing it from Belichick is refreshing, though, because of a change in tone from a coach who typically shoots straight and never veers. It's also centered on a player who isn't afraid to be himself, which some saw as a potential clash with an organization that is about embracing its way -- The Patriot Way -- and falling in line while pushing toward the goal of another Lombardi Trophy.
Newton called being with the Patriots a "breath of fresh air" earlier this month, and it seems as if Belichick has also embraced the benefits of new oxygen for his seasoned approach.
This evaluation, however brief and relatively typical it is, comes just days after NFL Network's Mike Giardi noted veteran Brian Hoyer seemed to have the best grasp of the offense. Two days later, Giardi reported Newton was seeing an increase in reps as Jarrett Stidham dealt with a hip issue, indicating Newton had perhaps taken a step forward in whatever battle there might be for the starting job.
Look, let's be real: This is Newton's job to lose, and he's not going to lose it as long as he stays healthy. The former NFL MVP gives the Patriots the best chance of contending in their first year of the post-Tom Brady era, provided he has command of a notoriously complex offense by Week 1. Hoyer exists as a reliable understudy with a very visible ceiling who understands Josh McDaniels' system from his time backing up Brady, and Stidham is the possible long-term developmental player.
The moment the Patriots signed Newton, this was the logical course of action. Belichick would benefit from refusing to reveal his starter for Week 1, forcing a team to prep for either Newton or Hoyer (Stidham's injury essentially eliminates him from serious opposing consideration), which would include anticipating two differing styles of signal-callers. Always one for an edge, Belichick isn't going to volunteer such information and lose a possible advantage in use of time.
But again, we should expect No. 1 under center in Week 1. He's already impressed Belichick enough for him to admit it, which is more than some can say.