Fri Jul 31 6:04pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
In this Dec. 15, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick stands on the sideline during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. The Patriots have been fined $1.1 million by the NFL for inappropriately filming the Cincinnati Bengals sideline during a game last season. On Sunday, June 28, 2020, the league also took away a third-round pick in the 2021 draft. I personally have never viewed any video footage at all, anything that those production people have done, other than whats shown on public television or something like that, Belichick said in December. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)
BOSTON (AP) Like all NFL teams, the Patriots face a variety of unknowns heading into a 2020 season in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
So it's no surprise Bill Belichick is being coy about his expectations for the quarterback position as his team prepares for the start of training camp.
Assuming he's healthy coming off foot surgery in December, free agent pickup and 2015 MVP Cam Newton would seem the front-runner to win the job over second-year Jarrett Stidham and veteran backup Brian Hoyer as they vie to succeed Tom Brady following his departure to Tampa Bay.
Belichick said the evaluation process hasn't started with no work on the field yet as 80 players began arriving at the team facility this week.
''That spot's the same as all the others on the team,'' Belichick said Friday during a conference call with reporters. ''We've got a long way to go. I can't control how players perform. That's up to them. We'll give everybody an opportunity and we'll see what happens.''
Newton was released in March by Carolina, the team he'd been with since being selected as the top draft pick in 2011. His best season was 2015 when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record in the regular season and an NFC championship. He threw for 3,837 yards and combined for 35 touchdowns en route to earning league MVP honors.
But the foot injury limited him to two games in 2019. That was after a shoulder injury also severely hampered him in 2018.
During a roundtable discussion earlier this month with Odell Beckham Jr., Todd Gurley and Victor Cruz, Newton said that the specter of trying to replace Brady was ''the elephant in the room'' surrounding his signing. He also acknowledged wondering how ''me and Belichick are going to mesh?''
He's attempted to answer by trying to begin the jelling process with existing Patriots players prior to reporting to camp.
Newton has been all over social media in recent weeks while working out with Patriots receivers. A photo posted Friday on Julian Edelman's Instagram page showed Edelman and Newton posing with Patriots receivers Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski after a workout session.
It's a sign of the kind of desire Newton said he has inside to prove himself to teams that passed on him in free agency.
''You're getting a dog. You're getting one of these ticked-off dogs, too,'' he said during the roundtable.
Belichick is choosing to start training camp with 80 players instead of 90. Starting with 90 would mean they'd have to break into two practice groups. By staying at 80 he said he can keep everyone together. All teams must cut down to 80 players by Aug. 16.
''We felt like this was the best option for our team, so that's why we did it,'' Belichick said.
The roster has already taken a hit after six players, including starting linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and tackle Marcus Cannon, opted out of playing the season over concerns about COVID-19. Running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and offensive lineman Najee Toran also elected to skip the season.
Belichick declined to say if any players had tested positive for coronavirus since they began reporting to camp. But he said the team will adjust as necessary, adding he respects the players who have already decided not to play,
''Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments,'' he said. ''So there's no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that.''
Belichick said he is unsure whether more players will exercise that option before training camp officially opens with an acclimation period next week.
''I have no way (of knowing). No crystal ball. It's kind of cloudy right now,'' he said.
August 5th: ADP Value
Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.
Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.
Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.
Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.
Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.
Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.
Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.
Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.
Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.
Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.
Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.
Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.
Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.
Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas broke the single-season receptions record last year by racking up 149 catches, surpassing Marvin Harrison's 2002 mark of 143. While that accomplishment would be good enough for most throughout the league, the 27-year-old is aiming to exceed his 2019 total heading into the 2020 campaign. Thomas convincingly dominated the fantasy picture last season, and in addition to his catch total, he also accumulated over 1,700 yards while finishing fifth in yards after the catch. He is expected to finish as the top fantasy wideout this season, and will likely get snagged off the draft board within the top three picks, especially in PPR formats.