New England quarterback Cam Newton delivers a pass during a minicamp practice Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass. Steven Senne/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.  — Call it a mantra. Call it a simple reminder. But Cam Newton has a note he has been reminding himself of every day since last season.

“Pre-snap comfort will help post-snap results for me,” Newton said of what he repeats to himself daily.

That’s because for Newton, back with the Patriots on a one-year deal, the coming season is all about him wholeheartedly embracing a second chance to make the impression he feels he was never fully equipped to make in 2020.

Newton didn’t reach terms on his original one-year deal with New England until late June last year, missing much of an offseason program that was truncated even more because of COVID-19 and teams having limited access to their facilities. The result was a disappointing season in which Newton went just 7-8 as the starting quarterback with the unenviable task of succeeding Tom Brady following his departure to Tampa Bay.

Along the way he missed time after a COVID-19 diagnosis and dealt with mechanical problems and consistency in the passing game as he struggled at times to lead an offense he was still mostly learning on the fly.

He said he feels “grateful” to get another crack at perfecting it.

“(Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’) system was something that has worked for decades and decades. So, for me, it was up to me to kind of learn it as much as possible,” Newton said. “In the latter part of the season, it just caught up to me. I was thinking too much, I was trying to be something, when it just wasn’t enough hours in the day, you know what I’m saying?”

This time around, Newton is vowing to do his part to ensure that time won’t be the impediment to improvement. He organized workouts with members of the returning receiving corps as well as free agent additions Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Newton attended all but three of New England’s recent voluntary offseason workouts. The exceptions were the three he missed because of a hand injury, from which he has since recovered.

Bourne said recently that Newton’s energy during workouts was infectious.

“It’s just awesome to be around a guy that kind matches energy like me. Whenever I get down or something, he’s there to pick me up. He’s that kind of guy,” Bourne said. “And when I do good he’s there too to push me and motivate me at the same time. So he’s just all-around a great teammate.”

Coach Bill Belichick said before the draft that Newton was the Patriots’ starting quarterback. He has reiterated that point even after the team drafted Mac Jones in the first round in April.

“Cam’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time, there’s no question about that,” Belichick said. “As you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt, he’s able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year.”

Newton said he had no problem with Jones’ selection, saying “you still have to do what’s right for the organization, for the long haul.”

He instead is focusing his energy on finding new benefits from having a full offseason.

“It’s still helping me,” he said. “It’s just about learning as much as possible and not only just doing the things that you’re asked to do but also going it a step further to try to master what is being taught.”

Will he be playing with any extra incentive this season?

“Double duh,” he said with a laugh. “It’s only 32 guys in the world that can say they are a starting quarterback in this league. … I have a job and responsibility to myself to hold myself to a standard that I know I have to play at. … ‘My faults’, ‘my bads’, ‘I am going to get them next time’ – those are slowly but surely being flushed out of my vernacular. And just the expectation of getting back to the standard of the Patriot way is important for me to uphold.”

BILL BELICHICK says he doesn’t expect cornerback Stephon Gilmore to participate in any of the team’s remaining mandatory minicamp workouts this week.

It’s an indication that the former defensive player of the year could possibly be a holdout as the team prepares to open training camp next month.

“I don’t expect him to be here,” Belichick said Tuesday. “And we’ll just focus on the guys that are here.”

Gilmore was absent from the opening day of minicamp Monday. Belichick declined to say whether the absence was excused. Gilmore also skipped the team’s 10 recent voluntary workouts over the past two months. He is entering the final season of the five-year, $65 million deal signed in 2017. He is set to make a base salary of $7 million in 2021 and is in line to receive an additional $500,000 roster bonus.

Still, that $7.5 million would rank him 25th among NFL cornerbacks for the coming season.

Gilmore has been a standout in New England’s secondary since arriving as a free agent from Buffalo. He has 11 interceptions in his four seasons with the Patriots. Gilmore, who will turn 31 in September, tied a career low with one interception last season. He appeared in just 11 games after missing time due to a COVID-19 diagnosis and a season-ending quadriceps injury late in the season.

The majority of NFL teams, including the Patriots, will open training camp on July 27.

Veteran safety Devin McCourty said he’s among the players who have been in communication with Gilmore and that “he’s still a part of this team.”

“Obviously, it’s my 12th year in the league. You see things like this happen. It kind of works itself out on its own and you kind of let the player worry about that,” McCourty said. “But as far as us as teammates and our defense with him in it, I’m excited for that just as much as anything. Obviously, his season got cut short last year and he’s going to be working hard to get back to that level and play that he’s been at the last couple of years. I’m excited to see him do that.”

In Gilmore’s absence Tuesday, several other players took turns rotating into his normal spot in the secondary, including free agent pickup Jalen Mills. Mills was active with multiple pass breakups. McCourty said whenever Gilmore does join the rest of the team, he doesn’t expect him to need much time to catch up on what he’s missed.

“He fits in where he fits in. It doesn’t take much to see where he fits in. I don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel,” McCourty said. “Our defense is kind of is what it is, year in and year out. Obviously, we add some things, we do things different depending on personnel and who’s here. But what Gilly can do and what he brings to the table is still a huge part of the defense. When he gets back, that’ll be what it is and all that will work itself out.”

TIGHT END JONNU Smith, the first marquee free agent to sign with the Patriots this offseason, appeared to suffer a left hamstring injury midway through Monday’s minicamp practice.

He repeatedly grabbed the hamstring and stretched while standing apart from the team during an extended special teams period. Smith later conferred with head athletic trainer Jim Whalen and did not participate in any ensuing drills. The 25-year-old spent the remainder of practice standing or kneeling on the sideline. He was limited at Tuesday’s practice.

Smith signed a four-year, $50 million deal. His addition caught the attention of several teammates who once played against him, including safety Adrian Phillips.

“He was a beast, and he still is a beast. That’s what I got from (practice),” Phillips said Monday. “When you watched him play at the Titans, you see a guy who can literally run everything. His route tree is wide open. Then he gets here and you see that first-hand in practice. It’s just crazy. He moves like a receiver, but he’s big, he’s fast, and it’s a real matchup problem.”

Last season, Smith caught 41 passes for 448 yards and eight touchdowns in Tennessee.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Chase Winovich was absent from a second straight minicamp practice Tuesday. Winovich was one of four other absent players, including defensive lineman Byron Cowart, inside linebacker Terez Hall and outside linebacker Rashod Berry.

Tight ends Jonnu Smith and Dalton Keene, right guard Shaq Mason, rookie linebacker Cameron McGrone and rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe were limited.

The Patriots are scheduled to hold their final minicamp practice Wednesday at 10:45 a.m.

MATTHEW SLATER, captain for the Patriots, stepped down from his longtime position as the team’s NFLPA rep this offseason. On Monday, Slater explained that after nine years, he simply felt his time had simply run its course.

“I think it’s important that young guys take ownership and understand the way that this league operates, the business side of this league, the player safety side of this league. We want our young men to be educated and to be involved and to really take ownership in what they’re doing,” Slater said. “So I felt the Lord telling me, ‘OK, it’s time for you to step aside in this role.’

“I thought about it, I talked to some of the leadership at the union, and I felt like it was a good time for me to step away.”

Last year, former Patriots left guard Joe Thuney and linebacker Brandon Copeland served as alternate reps behind Slater. Copeland arrived with NFLPA experience from his time with the Jets, but has since signed with Atlanta. Last March, Thuney chose to sign with the Chiefs in free agency.

Without them, the Patriots are now left with running back James White and long snapper Joe Cardona as co-alternates. White and Cardona are likely to represent the team this season.

As a rep, Slater voted on several important league matters, including steps that led to the ratification of the latest CBA and cancelling the 2020 preseason over concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.