Cam Newton has typically gone by the nickname Superman, owing to his signature touchdown celebration, but Raiders coach Jon Gruden prefers a different moniker.
“I haven't seen many guys walk through my doors that look like Cam. I call him 'Slam.' Slam Newton,” Gruden expressed to ESPN's Mike Reiss ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots, a team he has quite a bit of history against. “That was the nickname I gave him. He is a power forward playing quarterback.”
A Heisman winner and former first overall pick, Newton was a forgotten man during this year’s free agency, ultimately settling for a one-year prove-it deal with New England. And boy is he proving it. Teams were skeptical the 6’5,” 245-pound Newton would regain his MVP form following an injury-plagued 2019, but so far, the 31-year-old has done exactly that, starring with five touchdowns (four rushing, one passing) through his first two games. Cam’s 397 yards passing in Sunday’s loss to Seattle (a game that came down to the final play) were his most since Week 2 of 2011.
“Cam looks like he's the usual Cam. He's a threat to do a lot of different things,” said Gruden, whose newly-minted Las Vegas Raiders moved to 2-0 with Monday night’s upset of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The Raiders’ other win came against Newton’s former team, the Teddy Bridgewater-led Carolina Panthers, in Week 1. “It's a tough operation. It always is when you play against Cam Newton and the New England Patriots, and now that they've joined forces, it's double trouble for every defensive staff, every coach and every team that comes in there.”
During his first stint as Raiders head coach, Gruden was involved in one of the most talked-about playoff games in NFL history, falling to the Patriots in heartbreaking fashion at snow-covered Foxboro Stadium. Saved by a technicality (the since abolished “Tuck Rule” negated what was initially called a Tom Brady fumble) and Adam Vinatieri’s late-game heroics, New England escaped with a narrow 16-13 overtime win, a victory that propelled the Pats to their first of six Super Bowls under head coach Bill Belichick. The 2002 Divisional Round epic represented the final game at Foxboro Stadium while also effectively ending Gruden’s first Raiders tenure (he was traded to the Buccaneers later that offseason).
“Slam” Newton and the 1-1 Patriots will look to defend their home turf when Gruden and the unbeaten Raiders visit Sunday at 1 PM ET.