Belichick: Newton’s vaccine status not a factor in release
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyers caused a stir on Tuesday when he said that his team took a player’s vaccination status into account during roster cuts. Later, the NFL Players Association said they were opening an investigation into the matter.
When the Patriots released Cam Newton on Tuesday, many wondered if the quarterback’s choice to not receive the COVID-19 vaccine played into Bill Belichick’s decision. Newton ended up missing three days of practice due to a misunderstanding’ of NFL COVID-19 rules as the NFL has made life more difficult for unvaccinated players.
However, on Wednesday, Belichick said Newton’s vaccine status didn’t play into the team’s decision to release the veteran and keep rookie Mac Jones as the starting quarterback.
“No,” Belichick said. “Look, you guys keep talking about that and I would just point out that I don’t know what the number is, you guys can look it up, you have access to a lot of information, 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.”
The NFL doesn’t require players to get the vaccine, but has made life more difficult for those who opt out. Unvaccinated players are tested daily and a positive result means a minimum of 10 days away from the team. Vaccinated players are tested once a week and if they test positive, they can return as soon as they receive two negative tests in a row — separated by 24 hours.
Last year, Newton tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the Patriots’ game against Kansas City. The quarterback missed two weeks of practice due to the positive result.
This month, the NFL reported that between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21, the league had 68 positive tests out of 7,190 tests. According to the NFL, there were seven times as many unvaccinated players who tested positive compared to vaccinated players.
When asked if he felt it put someone like Newton at a disadvantage to not be vaccinated, Belichick said he didn’t think of it like that.
“No, we have other players on the team that aren’t vaccinated as I would say probably every other team in the league,” Belichick said. “We’ve had minimal, but throughout the league, there have been a number, quite a high number, I would say, of players who had the virus who have been vaccinated. Your implication that vaccination solves every problem, that’s not really, I would say that has not been substantiated based on what’s happened through training camp this year. That’s all.”
When it came to the reason why the Patriots picked Jones over Newton, Belichick wouldn’t dive into his rationale.
“That’s our decision,” Belichick said. “We’ve had weeks of meetings on all players. It’d be impossible to rehash everything that happened at that position or any other position but ultimately there’s a lot of factors that are involved and we made our decisions.”
On Wednesday, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he had a lot of respect for Newton.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player. A tremendous amount of respect for him as a human being, as a person,” McDaniels said. “And he knows how I feel about him. And the time that we were able to spend together, I think he did everything he could that we asked him to do to try to help us win and help us prepare this year to improve. And for that I’m very grateful and appreciative of all the things he did, all the work he put in.”