New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave no consideration to Cam Newton‘s vaccination status when releasing the 32-year-old quarterback on Tuesday.
Newton was a surprise cut as the Patriots trimmed their roster to 53 by the 4 p.m. ET deadline. He was viewed as the likely starter to open the season after re-signing with the team in the spring.
But rookie first-round pick Mac Jones delivered consistently in the preseason and was the only quarterback the Patriots kept on the active roster. Veteran Brian Hoyer was also released, while Jarrett Stidham was placed on the physically unable to perform list. The Patriots are expected to bring Hoyer back.
Mac Jones Pounced On Opportunity
Jones received an extended audition with the starters during Newton’s five-day absence from the team enforced when the former NFL MVP failed to comply with testing rules for unvaccinated players who leave the team. The Patriots called the issue a “misunderstanding” all while Belichick admitted it became a big opportunity for Jones.
But when it came time to set the regular-season roster, Belichick said he didn’t factor vaccination status.
“Look, you guys keep talking about that,” Belichick said Wednesday. “I would just point out that I don’t know what the number is, but the number of players, coaches and staff members that have been affected by COVID in this training camp — who have been vaccinated — is a pretty high number. So I wouldn’t lose sight of that.”
According to NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills, the league has found unvaccinated players to be seven times more likely to test positive for COVID.
A total of 68 players and staff of 7,190 tested from Aug. 1-21 were COVID positive.
Belichick said the team charted repetitions at quarterback and Jones and Newton ended the preseason with “pretty close to an equal number.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)