NFL Exec: Cam Newton Sent Clear Message To Bill Belichick, Patriots

Several factors likely played into New England's decision

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Cam Newton seemingly made it easy for the New England Patriots to release him.

Not only did rookie Mac Jones perform well enough during the preseason to win the Patriots’ starting quarterback job and make Newton expendable. Newton basically opened the door for Jones to secure the gig by missing practice time last week due to a misunderstanding of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.

The Athletic’s Mike Sando asked five NFL front office executives to rank the 16 teams in the AFC ahead of the 2021 season. He also offered them an opportunity to explain their thinking, and one executive pointed to Newton’s missteps while evaluating the Patriots.

“It’s embarrassing when you can’t complete a dropback pass, which was the case last season,” the exec told Sando in a piece published Thursday. “And then you do (crap) like misunderstand the COVID protocols as a veteran, that’s like sending Bill (Belichick) a hand-written note that says, ‘Cut me.’ Because they hate leadership challenges, especially at the quarterback position. They’re not used to that at all.”

Belichick said Wednesday, one day after the Patriots released Newton, the decision wasn’t related to the veteran QB’s vaccination status. Still, unvaccinated players face stricter protocols this season, so it’s certainly fair to wonder, especially with Newton missing a game last season after contracting COVID-19.

It’ll be fascinating to see what the future holds for Newton, now 32 years old and coming off a lackluster 2020 campaign. His track record — three Pro Bowl selections and an MVP award — is impressive, but it’s been several seasons since he’s produced at a high level, and the whole vaccination situation could be a factor in his job search.

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