"Cam Newton's vaccine status not reason for release," says Belichick
Growing concern as fears of covid-19 resurgence emerge.
Amid growing player backlash regarding NFL covid-19 protocols and the shock announcement of one time MVP Cam Newton's release, the Patriot's head coach stood his ground.
Belichick Says "No"
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick fired back when answering the press on Wednesday morning, saying Cam Newton's vaccination status was not considered when taking the decision to release him."No. Look, you guys keep talking about that," Belichick stated. "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 infected by COVID in this training camp -- who have been vaccinated -- is a pretty high number. So I wouldn't lose sight of that."
This comes less than a week after the NFL itself announced that 68 players and staff tested positive for covid-19 out of 7,190 tested individuals during a three-week stretch from Aug. 1-21. The rate of positive tests among unvaccinated NFL personnel was seven times higher than the rate of positive tests among vaccinated personnel, according to the league, further raising concerns of a resurgence of the virus.
For more on covid-19 in the NFL
Perhaps in what could be considered a prelude to his dismissal, Newton was asked to isolate from the Patriots for five days last week due to what the team called, a covid-19 protocol "misunderstanding." He subsequently missed three practices over that period, which in turn led rookie Mac Jones taking control of the team. The Patriots later revealed that Newton had undergone daily testing during that time, all of which came back as negative. According to NFL-NFLPA protocols, Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals - including all players - are exempt from daily testing if they have received the covid-19 vaccine. Interestingly, Newton himself never confirmed his vaccination status, saying it was personal issue.
Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer in hot water
In contrast, Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on tuesday that he and general manager Trent Baalke took a player's vaccination status into consideration the team's final roster cuts. Meyer said that it was due to the implementation of firmer covid-19 protocols imposed on unvaccinated players who test positive or are identified as high-risk close contacts as compared with the protocols for vaccinated players.
Needless to say Meyer's comments were not well received by the NFL Players Association such that George Atallah, the assistant executive director for external affairs for the NFLPA, made it clear that Meyer's statements "have led us to open an investigation." On Wednesday morning, the Jaguars released a statement stating that no players were released Tuesday because of their vaccination status.
Regarding decision to take Jones over Newton, Belichick called it a "very competitive situation." "Both players took pretty close to an equal number of repetitions in total between practice, games, going all the way back to the spring," he said.
A farewell to Cam Newton
With Newton now without a team, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said: "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player. A tremendous amount of respect for him as a human being. 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."