It appears the outcome of the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback competition, and the fate of Cam Newton, was determined by performance and performance only.
Cam Newton was released by the Patriots on Tuesday, which cemented Mac Jones as the team’s starter for the upcoming season. Newton’s release came roughly a week after he was forced to be away from the Patriots due to a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding.” By needing to enter the NFL’s five-day re-entry process, Newton outed himself as unvaccinated.
Many believed Newton’s vaccination status was a factor in his New England release. After all, being unvaccinated is a competitive disadvantage and puts availability in jeopardy, two things that probably don’t sit well with Bill Belichick and Co.
Speaking with the media Wednesday morning, Belichick was asked if Newton’s lack of vaccination played a part in his release.
“No,” Belichick told reporters. “You guys keep talking about that, but I would just point out that — I don’t know what the number is, you guys can look it up. You have the access to a lot of information. The number of players and coaches and staff members that have been infected by COVID in training camp who have been vaccinated is a pretty high number. So I wouldn’t lose sight of that.
Belichick added: “…We have other players on the team who aren’t vaccinated, as I would say does every other team in the league. We’ve had minimal, but throughout the league, there have been a high number. Quite a high number, I would say, of players who have had the virus who have been vaccinated. Your implication that the vaccination solves every problem, I would say that has not been substantiated based on what’s happened in training camp this year.”
The fact of the matter is, Newton, vaccinated or not, would be under center for the Patriots come Week 1 if he gave New England the best chance to win. But it became clear New England was in better hands with Jones, and the decision process might not have been overly complicated for Patriots coaches.