FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — For the New England Patriots, this Sunday’s game won’t just be the start of a new season, but the start of a new era.
With the exception of 2016, the team has started each season with the same man under center for the better part of two decades. Now that the Brady-Belichick era is in the rear-view mirror, the latter half will be looking to replicate the success he had with the former as new quarterback Cam Newton takes the helm.
Newton was brought in over the summer as a potential replacement for Tom Brady after he was released by the Carolina Panthers in March. The 2015 league MVP hasn’t played a game in nearly a year, having sat out the majority of last season with a foot injury.
In addition to filling the shoes of a future Hall of Famer, Newton is set to become the first Black quarterback to start for the Patriots in Week 1.
Newton has a variety of weapons to work as he seeks to lead the Patriots past the Miami Dolphins, though the team as a whole will be short a handful of players who opted out of this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the offensive side, tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Dan Vitale, wide receiver Marqise Lee, guard Najee Toran, and tight end Matt LaCosse won’t play this year, while linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung are out for the defense.
Gillette Stadium will also be a lot quieter on Sunday as a result of the pandemic. No fans are allowed at the stadium through at least the end of September, which also includes the Patriots’ Week 3 matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and remember – the game’s on 12!
Stay with 12 Sports for Patriots coverage throughout the day. New England Nation gets things started at 11:30 a.m. on Fox Providence, followed by Game Day Live at noon on WPRI.com and the WPRI 12 Facebook page. Then, at 11:15 on WPRI 12, we’ll break it all down with post-game analysis and interviews during the New England Nation Patriots Wrap.