By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Cam Newton was forced to miss five days of work last week, including three practices. During that time, rookie quarterback Mac Jones took most of the reps at the most important position on the field.
Now, Newton is gone, and Jones is the team's QB1.
Considering those circumstances, and considering Bill Belichick has famously stated that "dependability is more important than ability," fans and media reacted to the release of Newton on Tuesday by wondering if his status of not being fully vaccinated contributed to the end of his Patriots tenure.
Belichick adamantly denied that Newton's -- or anyone's -- vaccination status impacted his decisions on roster cutdown day, and noted that many positive COVID cases around the NFL have been in players who are vaccinated.
"No. Look, you guys keep talking about that, and I would just point out that I don't know what the number is -- I mean, you guys can look it up, you have the access to a lot of information. But 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 said.
A reporter told Belichick that with Newton, it wasn't about infection, but rather about different protocols that apply to players who are not fully vaccinated. Newton's mandated five-day absence would not have applied to a fully vaccinated player, for example.
Belichick stated that vaccines don't solve every problem.
"No, we have other players on the team who aren't vaccinated, as I would say probably every other team in the league. And we've had minimal, but throughout the league there have been a number of -- quite a high number, I would say -- of players who have had the virus who have been vaccinated," Belichick said. "So your implication that vaccination solves every problem, it's just not really ... I would say that has not been substantiated, based on what has happened in training camp this year. That's all."
Belichick did not answer when asked how many player on the Patriots' roster are not vaccinated, noting it's a personal and medical decision.
Head coaches and executives around the league were reminded on Tuesday that it is unwise to publicly state that a player's vaccination status impacted decisions for roster moves. Jacksonville's Urban Meyer, in his first NFL season after a highly successful career coaching in college, stated in a press conference that vaccination status was considered when he and his front office were settling on their 53-man roster. The NFLPA has since opened an investigation into Meyer and the Jaguars.
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