COVID-19 had a huge effect on the NFL last season with games having to be moved around and players being out; not to mention limited or no fans in the stands. Now, even with most of the league’s players being vaccinated against the virus, it may have a team-changing consequences in New England.
The Patriots’ announced Monday morning (August 23) that starting quarterback Cam Newton must sit out half of this week’s practices due to what the team is calling a “misunderstanding” about the testing requirements.
The move could open the way for Pats rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who was already locked in a battle for the starting job with Newton, who helmed the team during the 2020 season. Minimally, Newton will miss the first joint practice with the New York Giants on Wednesday before being eligible to return on Thursday prior to the team’s final exhibition on Sunday.
"On Saturday, Cam Newton traveled to a Club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area," said the team in a statement on Monday, according to CBS Sports. "He received daily Covid tests, which were all negative. Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility. Cam will continue participating virtually in team activities and return to the club facility on Thursday, August 26."
The Patriots did not disclose Newton’s vaccination status in the statement, but according to league protocols, vaccinated players aren’t subject to travel restrictions and are only required to be tested once every 14 days. Players who are not vaccinated are subjected to “daily Covid tests,” which was mentioned in the team’s statement.
Earlier this month, Newton was asked whether he was vaccinated against COVID-19, to which he replied “It’s too personal to discuss. I’ll just keep it at that.”
The starting QB job in New England was not a sure thing for Newton heading into the 2021 campaign as last year was up-and-down for him, throwing for league-low 2,657 yards among quarterbacks who started a full season, 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Patriots also missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Mac Jones was the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in April.