Patriots_Dolphins MS

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton stands in the pocket and gets ready to throw Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

FOXBORO — While New England Patriots’ fans are still smarting over star quarterback Tom Brady’s departure earlier this year, they are excited about the team’s newest playmaker and eager to see what he can do.

Fans who gathered at Patriot Place Sunday to eat lunch and watch the 1 p.m. game on large screen TVs in the entertainment complex’s restaurants, cited quarterback Cam Newton’s enthusiasm, ability to run the ball, and overall athleticism as reasons to be hopeful that he will, at the very least, help the team clinch a playoff berth.

“At first it was hard, because I’m not ready to let him [Brady] go. It’s kind of like a bad breakup,” said Paula Porfert, 42, who sported a No.12 Brady jersey as she dined with friends on the patio at CBS Sporting Club Sunday afternoon. “I want Tom to be happy, but it’s too bad that he couldn’t retire as a Patriot. Having said that … I’m excited about Cam. He has legs, which I can’t say about Tom. He [Brady] can’t run.”

Porfert and others said they were almost as excited to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints game late Sunday afternoon as they were to watch the Patriots season opener.

“Even if he’s not a Patriot, he is still someone who brought New England so much and we shouldn’t forget that,” said Derek Smith, 24, a computer programmer from Attleboro, who was shopping at Patriot Place and trying to catch a glimpse of the field before Sunday’s game. “Just being here is pretty cool. I mean, with everything going on — the pandemic, racial issues, a new quarterback — I wanted to come and be a part of it.”

Elena Yaghoobian, 20, a nursing student from Mansfield, said she “totally (misses) Tom Brady, but I’m glad we got Cam Newton as a replacement.”

“He is a heartthrob … he’s nice to look at,” said Yaghoobian, who was wearing a Newton T-shirt while working a hostess shift at Splitsville/Howl at the Moon at Patriot Place. “And having a Black quarterback in New England is pretty cool.”

Newton is the first Black quarterback to start a regular-season game for the Patriots since the organization’s founding in 1960.

Stoughton resident Rob Cincotta, owner of Fiorellas Express restaurant in Belmont, said the Patriots made a “great decision” by acquiring Newton.

“He’s got something to prove. He’s playing for a contract, and this is probably his last big contract,” Cincotta said. “His enthusiasm, passion, love for the game … I mean, look at how when he scores, he goes right to the fans.”

Smith said with his “unique” style and personality, Newton is sure to be a favorite with fans — several of whom were wearing his No.1 jersey at Patriot Place on Sunday.

Newton, who played for the Carolina Panthers for nine years before coming to New England, was named the NFL’s MVP in 2015. In addition to his on-field prowess, Newton is known for his flamboyant, fashion-forward postgame attire. He arrived at Gillette Stadium Sunday wearing a bright yellow suit, a black bowtie, and donning a wide-brim brown fedora.

A vegan, Newton is vocal about his support for a plant-based diet and recently appeared in a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign.

“All of the off-field stuff like his outrageous outfits is good, but at the end of the day, he has to deliver on the field,” Smith said. “And I don’t want to jinx it, but I think he will. I think we’re going all the way.”

Porfert agreed, saying “Cam looks like he’s ready and he is going to be playing under [head coach Bill] Belichick, who I think will pull a rabbit out of his hat again. He has way of taking players and turning them into celebrities.”

“I guess the big question is are we going to get Cam’s gold or fool’s gold?” Porfert asked. “I think we’re going to get Cam’s gold.”

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