No one knows the stakes of Cam Newton’s upcoming season better than the man himself.

“At times, I do remind myself people forget who you are, and what you’ve done. So now I’m (in) a position now where I need to be my best self,” Newton said Thursday during an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin. “It’s really put-up or shut-up time.”

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) passes during a practice last month in Foxborough, Mass. AP file photo

After Newton re-signed with New England on a 1-year, incentive-laden deal last March, Patriots coach Bill Belichick again named him the starter, despite the fact he’s coming off the worst season of his career and that Belichick drafted former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the first round.

Newton in 2020 completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 picks, while rushing for 12 scores. Several of the factors that contributed to Newton’s struggles in 2020 — a bout with COVID-19, system inexperience and a lack of chemistry with his receivers — are now seen as behind him.

However, his most recent successful campaign as a starter was three years ago, a sign this season could be his last shot.

Over three non-padded practices in June’s minicamp, Newton led every individual and team drill among the quarterbacks. He and Jones performed comparably in the competitive team drills, with the rookie throwing two more interceptions on seven more pass attempts.

Newton and the Patriots will reconvene for their first training camp practice on July 28.

“For me, the Patriots’ organization has been impeccable … so my time there has been everything I could have asked for,” Newton said. “I guess it’s now time for me to uphold my end of the bargain, through and through.”

TOM BRADY LED the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl 55 victory at age 43 during a pandemic, becoming the first quarterback to win a title in his team’s home stadium.

But the legend only grows from there.

Brady did it while playing with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he sustained in his final season with the Patriots.

The injury gradually worsened during his first year with the Bucs and he finally had surgery to repair the MCL in late February after winning his seventh Super Bowl ring.

Brady has declined to give specifics about his knee surgery, only confirming that it was “pretty serious.”

The Super Bowl MVP had acknowledged that the injury occurred prior to taking his first snap with the Bucs in training camp. Now we know it was a lot more than an arthroscopic procedure. Brady tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee during Week 1 of the 2008 season.

The MCL is a band of tissue that runs along the inner edge of the knee. It helps to connect the shin and thigh bones to keep the knee stable and working properly during movement.

The risk of playing with a torn MCL is that the knee can become hyperextended easily and bend in the wrong direction.

“It was an injury I dealt with really since last, you know, April, May,” Brady said following the Bucs’ mandatory minicamp in June. “I knew I would have to do something at the end of the year, and happy I did it, and it was probably something that certainly needed to be done and there was a great outcome so I’m very happy about that. I feel like there’s some things I’ll be able to do this year that I wasn’t able to do last year.”

Brady missed about one practice each week the final few months of the 2020 season, presumably to give his ailing knee some rest.

He was good enough to pass for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading the Bucs to an 11-5 record during the regular season. He added another 1,061 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in four preseason games, including the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Brady has spent the offseason rehabbing the knee and this week is working out in altitude near his summer home in Yellowstone, Montana.

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