Belichick denies Patriots cut former MVP Cam Newton due to vaccination status

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has denied the team cut former NFL MVP Cam Newton because of his vaccine status.

Newton had been competing with rookie Mac Jones for the starting quarterback role in preseason. The news of Newton’s release came as somewhat of a surprise after Belichick said earlier this week that Newton was going “in the right direction”. Newton was guaranteed $3.5m on his contract this year and, even though injuries have diminished him, he would have still been an asset as a back up.

However, Newton missed a number of practices last week due to what he said was a misunderstanding of Covid-19 protocols. Although Newton has not said whether he has been vaccinated, the Patriots said the quarterback had been tested for Covid-19 daily upon his return. Under NFL rules vaccinated players are exempt from daily testing.

“No. Look, you guys keep talking about that,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday when he was asked whether Newton’s vaccine status had played a part in the decision to cut him. “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.”

According to NFL figures, unvaccinated players and staff have tested positive at a rate seven times higher than those who are vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association has launched an investigation following Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer’s admission that vaccination status factored into the team’s roster decisions.

See also  NFL Nation

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah confirmed the union’s action on Tuesday night, hours after Meyer told reporters: “Everyone was considered. That was part of the production, let’s start talking about this and also, ‘Is he vaccinated or not?’ Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.”

The NFL hasn’t mandated Covid-19 vaccines but has incorporated strict protocols for players who aren’t fully vaccinated.

Meyer pointed to defensive end Josh Allen missing one week because of protocols. Allen, who is not vaccinated, was activated from the Covid-19 list on Monday.

“Well, Josh Allen’s never had [Covid],” Meyer said. “He’s not played in two weeks. So he’s never had Covid. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but he’s never had Covid. So that’s pretty punitive.”

Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman raised his eyebrows when asked about Meyer’s comments and if the team made similar decisions.

“We cut the roster based on the 53 best guys that we thought could help our football team,” Roseman said. “And then going forward, when we look at guys, we’re going to look at them based on their ability, how they fit our system, what their background is, to make sure we’re bringing in the right people into this building. That’s really how all our discussions have been about.”

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