By Terrance Turner
Aug. 31, 2021
Quarterback Cam Newton has been released by the New England Patriots. The Boston Globe was the first to report the news this morning.
Mac Jones, who led Alabama to a national championship last year, will be the starting QB when the Patriots start their season on Sept. 12 versus the Miami Dolphins. The news is surprising because Patriots coach Bill Belichick had consistently said that Newton would be the starter. In fact, just this morning — hours before releasing him! — Belichick praised Newton’s progress: “Certainly, he started at a much higher point than what he did last year, so definitely moving in the right direction.”
Last year was a rough one for Newton. He signed a one-year deal with the Patriots and played 15 games in the 2020 season but missed a game after testing positive for COVID-19. According to the New York Times, Newton became infected in October, forcing the N.F.L. to move the Patriots’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs to a Monday night after Newton tested positive for the virus. The Patriots flew to Kansas City, Mo., in two planes — one for players and staff who were exposed to Newton and one for everyone else. According to ESPN, Newton ultimately completed 65.8% of his passes last season, with only 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Patriots drafted Jones after going 7-9 in the 2020 season.
Newton re-signed with the Patriots this March. He played in every preseason game, including Sunday’s preseason finale against the New York Giants. But he missed three days of practice last week due to what the team called a “misunderstanding”. Newton left New England for a team-approved medical appointment. But because he had been away from NFL team facilities, Newton was subject to a 5-day “entry cadence process” before returning to the team — a process used only for unvaccinated players. NFL Network reported that the team was frustrated with the matter, quoting a source who said it “opened the door” for Jones to become the starter.
To make matters worse, Newton declined to confirm whether he has been vaccinated. Earlier this month, he stonewalled reporters who asked. Newton and Jones declined to confirm whether they were vaccinated, with Newton even seeming to bristle at the question — “Are you vaccinated?” he asked Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin before answering himself.
“I think it’s too personal for each and every person to kind of discuss it. And I’ll just keep it at that,” he said.
Newton played in every Patriots preseason game but only played 39 snaps. He was 14-for-21 for 162 yards, with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Jones, however, was 36-for-52, for 389 yards, a touchdown and no picks. (He played 107 snaps.)
Newton’s release is so far the biggest headline from this round of NFL roster cuts; NFL teams must cut their roster to 53 men by 4 pm today. But Newton seemed to take the news in stride. “I really appreciate all the love and support during this time,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I must say, please don’t feel sorry for me! I’m good.”