Cam Newton was the first big-name NFL player to test positive for COVID-19 during the 2020 season, which forced the New England Patriots quarterback to miss a game. The former NFL MVP said the virus short-circuited his season.
Speaking on the "I Am Athlete" podcast with Brandon Marshall, Fred Taylor and Chad Johnson, Newton said when he returned after the positive test, he struggled to pick up where he'd left off.
"I was one of the first football players to catch it, and I'm over here like, 'Man, how did I get it? Where did it come from?' And everybody's in this panic mode as we still should be," said Newton of COVID-19. "But yet through it all, it just happened so fast. When I came back, it was something that that's where the lack of an offseason, the lack of time really being invested in the system kind of showed itself.
"By the time I came back, I didn't feel comfortable physically, skillfully. A lot of that discomfort came pre-snap. I'm lost. I'm thinking too much. ... The offense kept going, and I was stopped and stagnant for two weeks. By the time I came back, it was new terminology. ... I wasn't just trying to learn a system for what it was, I was learning a, let's be honest, 20-year system in two months."
Newton started off the season averaging 238 passing yards per game, with two touchdowns passes, two interceptions and four rushing scores as the Pats went 2-1 in the first three games of the season before the QB's positive COVID-19 test. The opening string included 397 yards passing in a loss at Seattle.
From there, Newton averaged just 161.9 passing yards in his final 12 starts of the season with six TDs and eight INTs as the Pats finished 7-9 and out of the postseason.
"They threw everything at me, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way," Newton said. "At the end of the day, sometimes you have to go through things in that type of manner to make you realize that you can't skip processes. ... I'd be the first person to tell you that I needed time."
While Newton had his moments, his passing was an issue for the bulk of the season. The 31-year-old missed far too many throws, struggling with accuracy and timing. True, he didn't exactly have a great wideout corps around him -- including Julian Edelman, who was injured much of the year -- but too often, Newton didn't raise the level of play of those around him.
Despite his passing struggles, Newton can still be a dual-threat. He broke the Patriots record for QB rushing yards, finishing with 592 yards and 12 rushing scores.
Once again a free agent, Newton will search for a landing spot where he can compete for a starting gig. The signal-caller noted that he has no plans to retire with more left in the tank.
"I can't go out like that," he said. "Hell no. I can't go out all like that. I can't go out like that. It's not even until the wheels off. I can't go out like that. Arm strength? C'mon man. Somebody just played and he's 43.
"I hear all of that. I ain't ever been a favorite. ... Going into last year, 'is he healthy?' I just wanted to finish healthy. Now it's if I'm able to learn his system, c'mon bro, I can't go out like that. My pride won't even allow me to do it. You can talk about this, you can talk about that, you can talk about whatever. Listen, bro: There is not 32 guys better than me. Put it like that. Bro, I'm not 32."
Whether the 32 NFL front offices agree with Newton remains to be seen.