Following the surprising news of Cam Newton’s release, there’s been speculation that the quarterback’s vaccination status played a role in the New England Patriots’ decision. Head coach Bill Belichick pushed back on that idea on Wednesday when speaking with reporters.
"No. Look, you guys keep talking about that," Belichick said.
"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."
Between Aug. 1-21, 68 players and staff tested positive out of 7,190 tested individuals. Incidence rate among those unvaxxed was 7x higher than those who were vaxxed. https://t.co/TYkkIkBcA6
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9)
#Patriots coach Bill Belichick says Cam Newton being unvaccinated didn’t factor in his release and pointed out vaccinated players and coaches are testing positive too. The reality is the statistics and the rules are forcing teams to consider availability. @gmfb @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/5mg6qVpjt7— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero)
Before New England’s third and final preseason game, Newton had to stay away from the team for five days due to COVID-19 protocols. Neither the Patriots nor Newton have confirmed the veteran's vaccination status, but New England said Newton was being tested for COVID-19 daily, which is part of the protocols for unvaccinated players.
Newton was viewed as the favorite to be New England’s Week 1 starter throughout training camp and the early part of the preseason. First-round pick Mac Jones had a strong preseason and will be under center when the Patriots kick off the regular season on Sept. 9.
On Tuesday, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said the team considered the vaccination status of players before making final roster cuts. George Atallah, assistant executive director for external affairs for the NFL Players Association, told ESPN that the NFLPA would open an investigation into Meyer’s comments.
NFL teams are not allowed to cut players solely because of their vaccination status.
Vaccinated players are only tested for COVID-19 once a week. Unlike unvaccinated players, they don’t have to stay away from the team for five days after being in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Newton started 15 games for the Patriots last season. He missed one game after testing positive for COVID-19.