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With Cam Newton out, Mac Jones is seizing his opportunity

Cam Newton's COVID testing "misunderstanding" could be just the beginning of a season-long headache for the Patriots, but starting a vaccinated Mac Jones could give New England more reliability and peace of mind.

Simms and I had agreed a week or so ago that, one, Cam Newton will be the New England starter and, two, he’ll hold the job until he gives Mac Jones an opening to steal the job. We never expected the opening to come so soon.

Newton’s bungling of the rules for unvaccinated players has given Jones a chance to step into the fray for joint practices with the Giants. Via Jeff Howe of, Jones had completed 21 of 23 passes against the starting New York defense, with 14 straight completions. He eventually ran the streak to 18, before an incompletion came after the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Coach Bill Belichick said Monday morning -- likely with full knowledge that he wouldn’t have Newton until Thursday -- that Newton starts until someone else plays better. Jones appears to be playing as well as anyone could.

There’s another important dynamic to consider, especially with Tom Brady coming back to town in little more than a month. Unless Newton gets vaccinated (and he should), he can instantly become unavailable at any given moment. In theory, he could test positive or have a close contact with an infected person on the day of the game against the Buccaneers, immediately rendering him unavailable to play and forcing the Pats to rip up the game plan based on Newton and pivot to something new.

They had to do it last year against the Chiefs. They won’t want to do it again. That fact alone should be enough to get coach Bill Belichick to choose the rookie, even if Newton gets vaccinated today.