Why did the Patriots launch Cam Newton? How Mac Jones, COVID vaccine reportedly led to shock minimize

What Cam Newton's COVID absence means for Patriots QB competition with Mac Jones
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The Patriots made a stunning decision on Tuesday afternoon when they released quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton was embroiled in a starting quarterback battle with Mac Jones. The veteran appeared to have the edge in it for a good chunk of the offseason, but as the preseason came to a close, Jones made up ground fast. The rookie ended up winning the starting job in a move that was a mild surprise.

But Newton being released as a part of that decision? That was shocking, especially after Bill Belichick complimented Newton on Tuesday morning.

“Certainly he started at a much higher point than last year,” Belichick said of Newton to reporters. “Definitely moving in the right direction.”

So, why did Belichick and the Patriots release Newton outright? Here’s everything you need to know about New England’s decision to cut Newton.

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Why did the Patriots release Cam Newton?

There are a few reasons that Cam Newton was released, as Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley reports. They were largely related to his performance and vaccination status. 

Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed added one more reason: Newton’s “command of the locker room” could have created an odd dynamic with him serving as the backup to Jones.

Certainly, those all played a part in Newton’s release. That said, the main reason for Belichick’s decision likely began on the field in his head-to-head battle with Jones.

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Mac Jones and Cam Newton’s preseason performances

Jones and Newton were pretty even through two preseason games performance-wise, but Jones gained the upper hand in the team’s final preseason game against the Giants.

While Newton put together a lackluster 2 of 5 passing performance for 10 yards and an interception, Jones went 10 of 14 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He made several quality throws that showed off his arm strength during the contest.

Jones’ accuracy was great during the game, too, as it has been all preseason. In fact, only 6.3 percent of his passes thrown during the Patriots’ three games were deemed uncatchable/inaccurate by Pro Football Focus. That was the best mark in the league.

That may have been the biggest difference for Jones. After all, his and Newton’s numbers were relatively similar considering that Jones played more than twice as many drives as Newton. But Jones was more accurate and managed to avoid turning the ball over.

PlayerDrivesComp%YardsTDsINTs
Cam Newton766.716211
Mac Jones1569.238910

That — plus his steady play in all three preseason games compared to Newton’s up-and-down performance — is why Jones won the starting job. And that helped push Newton toward the roster bubble.

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Is Cam Newton vaccinated?

Cam Newton is not vaccinated, and a COVID-related incident may have played a role in pushing him off the Patriots’ roster.

Newton missed five days of practice last week with what he and the team called a “misunderstanding” of the NFL’s COVID protocols. He had gone to an approved, off-site medical appointment and while he was tested for COVID on the day of his appointment, he didn’t get tested at the Patriots’ facility. That was a violation of the league’s COVID protocols.

At the time, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi noted that caused “a level of frustration” for the team. That gave Jones a chance to stake his claim to the starting job.

Jones took advantage of that opportunity, and that led the Patriots to move on from Newton on Tuesday morning.

MORE: Cam Newton’s COVID absence, explained

Did the Patriots try to trade Cam Newton?

The Patriots did not try to trade Cam Newton, as Pro Football Talk reports.

This is another surprise. Newton may not have been perfect during the preseason, but he flashed some starting ability against the Eagles. He was somewhat cheap, too, as his contract had a base value of just $3.5 million.

That said, Newton’s deal could be worth up to $14 million via incentives, so perhaps teams seeking a backup would have been reluctant to assume the risk of Newton earning those incentives. Or perhaps the Patriots wanted to rip off the Band-Aid and move forward with Jones as the starter.

Either way, New England didn’t try to trade Newton. The team just let him go.