FOXBORO, Mass. His was the most dramatic signing of the NFL off-season; a one-time MVP, Heisman Trophy winner, and number one overall draft selection who was released by the only team he’d ever played for, then picked up by a team that needed a quarterback because the man who led them to six Super Bowl victories had left the only team he’d ever played for. “It’s a brave new world for New England,” says PatriotsCountry blogger Mike Brandnewjetski. “This puts them back to where they were when Drew Bledsoe was crowd-surfing to grunge rock bands on Comm Ave.”
“Excuse my appearance. My good sweatshirt is at the cleaners.”
The man in question is Cam Newton, holder of numerous NFL records, a dual-threat quarterback who has averaged 7.3 yards per pass, 5.1 yards per run, and 18.2 miles per gallon (highway) in a career he will cap when he becomes a first-ballot inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Let’s DO IT!” he tweeted out to his followers on Twitter when he arrived in camp, betraying a boyish enthusiasm in a veteran that stuck fans and cynical sportswriters alike as refreshing.
“New England has a lot of colleges, so I thought I’d go ‘preppy.’”
But that was then, and this is now. Three weeks into training camp a dejected Newton sat in front of his locker after the first afternoon of full-pads contact yesterday, refusing to talk to reporters other than a stringer for GQ, to whom he complained bitterly about team rules. “I learned the playbook, and I know we’re not supposed to murder people like that tight end did,” he said, a towel draped over his head. “Maybe I didn’t read my contract all the way through, but I haven’t had a dress code since junior high.”
” . . . this is my impression of Diana Ross on a bad hair day.”
Newton is referring to Article VIII, Section 8.2(a)(iii) of the Patriots’ Employee Manual, which requires players to dress with no greater fashion sense than that possessed by Head Coach Bill Belichick, who has racked up over $80,000 in league fines over the course of his career for failure to look like the late Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Tom Landry on the sidelines.
“I came straight from church to the game.”
Newton is the unofficial “fashion conscience” of the NFL, a counter-balance to Colin Kaepernick ‘s displays of moral one-upsmanship by kneeling during the national anthem. “I feel for those kids chained to sewing machines in third-world sweatshops, man,” he said as he changed into a velour sweater-vest jump suit combo over a burgundy ruffled shirt. “If they’re gonna make this stuff, somebody’s got to buy it.”
“What do I call this look? I don’t know, Naugahyde Pillow Joker.”
Belichick’s taste in haberdashery, by contrast, has been described as that of a homeless man, a lobster boat captain, or a grease-trap cleaner, but this assessment has been criticized as unfair. “You’re picking on society’s most vulnerable members,” says a grizzled man who gives his name only as “Mitch” sleeping under a beaten-down cardboard box at Boston’s South Station. “I may be homeless, but I dress way better than Belichick.”