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‘It’s because he wouldn’t get the Covid vaccine?’ Fans, pundits react as Patriots cut former NFL MVP Newton

‘It’s because he wouldn’t get the Covid vaccine?’ Fans, pundits react as Patriots cut former NFL MVP Newton
Former NFL MVP Cam Newton is looking for a new team after the three-time Pro Bowler was released from the New England Patriots, sparking speculation that he was cut from the team for failing to take a Covid-19 vaccine.

Newton, 32, was drafted into Bill Belichick's Patriots a year ago to replace their legendary outgoing QB Tom Brady but the former Carolina Panther failed to ignite under center in New England, completing just eight touchdown passes all season as the Patriots stumbled to a 7-9 record on the season.

It had seemed that Newton's position might be under threat when Belichick opted to bring in a new quarterback, Mac Jones, in the first round of this year's NFL Draft – but with the Patriots having never named a rookie as starting QB during Belichick's two-decade tenure in New England (admittedly, much of this was due to Brady's excellence) it had seemed to most that Newton would hold on to his job for at least another year, particularly after he was awarded with a new contract in March.

And so, Tuesday's news of Newton's unceremonious release was a bolt from the blue for Patriots fans and pundits – some of whom have immediately suggested that Newton's reluctance to take a Covid-19 vaccine has ultimately cost him his role at the six-time Super Bowl champions. 

"Mac Jones balled out, and Cam Newton chose to not get vaccinated. Easy decision (and the right one) for Bill Belichick," wrote Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus.

"I have to believe it’s because Cam Newton wouldn’t get the Covid vaccine right?" suggested ESPN's Charly Arnholt, while CBS' Jonathan Jones suggested that Newton will have "a much easier time landing on one of 30 NFL teams if he gets vaccinated."

Latest figures from within the NFL suggests that as many as 94% of players and 99% of staff have received a vaccine against Covid-19 after the league announced a series of harsh penalties for unvaccinated players, including fines of around $15,000 for not wearing a face-mask when required. 

There have been several high-profile holdouts, though, of which Newton was said to be one and his vaccination status forced him to miss five preseason practices with the Patriots after league rules mandated that he isolate after a potential close contact situation.

In his stead, rookie quarterback Jones shone – and it appears that was enough to convince Belichick that, between Jones' emergence and Newton's potential unavailability at various points throughout the season if he remained unvaccinated, a change had to come.

It should also be noted that Newton became infected with Covid-19 last season, with many blaming his under par performances on his struggles to recover from the virus.

Others, though, aren't so sure.

"So for those of you who think this move by the Pats is only about Cam Newton not getting the Covid vaccine, then what’s next? Are the Vikings cutting Kirk Cousins? How about the other NFL QB1’s who may not be vaccinated?" asked ESPN's Linda Cohn.

Indeed Cousins, along with the Colts' Carson Wentz and another former NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson, are thought to be among the remaining high profile players who remain unvaccinated, and it will remain to be see if Newton's release from the Patriots might convince them to fall in line with the NFL and its brand of subtle coercion. 

Also on rt.com Is the NFL creating a problem for itself in its drive to vaccinate players?