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Bill Belichick insists Cam Newton’s lack of vaccination wasn’t why New England Patriots cut QB

Matt Fitzgerald

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The New England Patriots changed the course of their franchise when they released Cam Newton and named Mac Jones their starting quarterback.

Much speculation has arisen around why Newton was let go. The prevailing thought and reports from the boots on the ground at Patriots training camp among local media is that Jones simply outperformed Newton and beat him out on merit. However, Newton isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, and spent time in the health and safety protocols after a daily testing snafu.

New England head coach Bill Belichick asserted on Wednesday that Newton wasn’t let go due to his anti-vaccination stance, and elaborated on the issue to clarify, per NFL Network’s Michael Giardi:

Belichick is, shall we say, economical with his word choice. Truncated. To the point. A paragon of minimalist rhetoric. That he went out of his way to address the issue of the vaccine is noteworthy.

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The COVID-19 vaccination has been framed as a civil liberties, personal choice type of political issue by the NFL Players Association. That’s why they’re launching an investigation into the remarks Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer made Tuesday. Meyer said vaccination status played a factor into roster cuts.

On Wednesday, the Jags even released a statement to backtrack a bit on Meyer’s remarks:

You have to admire Meyer’s candor, but that’s not Belichick’s M.O.

Sure, you’d love to see The Hoodie take a stand as the GOAT of coaches, but that’s not exactly feasible due to the NFLPA’s current policy and tactics.

While Meyer is still experiencing growing pains transitioning from college legend to the pros, Belichick is in midseason form. He will do absolutely nothing to jeopardize his team’s ability to be competitive.

That includes keeping an unvaccinated player who’s supposed to start at the most important position.

Not to accuse Belichick of being a downright liar, or questioning his integrity. It’s just the typical dance he does with the media. Tom Brady did similar things while he helped Belichick build a two-decade dynasty in New England, even admitting in recent months that 90% of what he says publicly isn’t what he really thinks.

Reasonable to assume Belichick has a similar ratio, no?

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NFLPA and Cam Newton may want to rethink COVID-19 vaccine stance

NFLPA and Cam Newton may want to rethink COVID-19 vaccine stance
Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws the ball prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Cam Newton stats (New England Patriots, 2020): Completed 242 of 368 passing attempts (65.8%), 2,657 yards, 8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 82.9 passer rating; 137 carries, 592 yards, 12 rushing touchdowns

The memo the NFLPA released back in late June read, in part, as follows, courtesy of NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:

“The NFLPA has protected every player’s right to choose whether or not they want to take the vaccine. […] You have an individual choice. Our union has to both protect that choice and also protect the overall player community and your families, given the virus remains contagious and dangerous. […] No club official, coach or anyone from management should be pressuring you into getting a vaccine, and if they are, we need to know.”

See? A complete politicization that’s been unapologetically distorted.

OK, let’s go with the civil liberties slant and pretend like that’s the important thing here. Sure, NFLPA, you can allow players like Cam Newton to choose whether or not they want to take the vaccine.

You know what skill is at a premium in the NFL? Availability, just like the Jags’ official statement says. The NFL’s health and safety protocols are designed to penalize vaccinated players.

Here’s a reality check, NFLPA: As long as said protocols are in place, teams will continue to pass over your precious, alleged independent-thinking, freedom-of-choice-good-fight-fighting union members in favor of those who exercise common sense, and are willing to make a small sacrifice for the greater good of their team, and for, um, humanity.

Maybe reading up on the science behind the vaccine, and applying even a modicum of critical thought as to why the league is imploring players to get vaccinated via policy power, might cause the light bulb to flick on for Newton and the Players Association.

Then again, all the tactile, scientific, quantitative and practical knowledge in the world often doesn’t prevent fools from being fools.

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