Last Monday, the New England Patriots announced that Cam Newton would be away for the team for a five-day period due to a "misunderstanding" involving COVID testing protocols.
Eight days later, the Patriots released the veteran quarterback.
Newton wouldn't have been subjected to that five-day absence if he was vaccinated, and rookie QB Mac Jones gained valuable practice experience while Newton was sidelined. But head coach Bill Belichick insisted Wednesday that Newton's vaccination status had nothing to do with his release.
"No," Belichick said in a video conference with reporters. "I mean, look, you guys keep talking about that, and I would just point out that ... the number of players and 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."
Belichick then added an apparent defense of Newton, noting he wasn't the only player on the roster who is unvaccinated. (The Atlanta Falcons are the only NFL team with a 100% vaccination rate.)
"We have other players on the team who aren't vaccinated, as I would say probably as every other team in the league," Belichick said. "And we've had minimal (positive tests) -- but throughout the league there have been quite a high number of players who have had the virus who have been vaccinated.
"Your implication that the vaccination solves every problem, I would say that has not been substantiated based on what has happened in training camp this year. That's all."
While it's true that several vaccinated players and coaches have tested positive for COVID, those who are vaccinated are far less likely to contract the virus. Unvaccinated players have tested positive for COVID this month at a rate seven times higher than their vaccinated counterparts, CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones relayed.
A Patriots player told NFL Media's Michael Giardi that Jones won the job over Newton fair and square, suggesting that COVID had nothing to do with Newton's release. That may be true, but it's also true that the league will be safer and positive COVID tests will decrease as more players and staffers get vaccinated.