Cam Newton chose not to get vaccinated. Bill Belichick chose to keep a quarterback room that was. Life is all about choices.
The New England Patriots stunned the sports world on Tuesday morning when Newton was released by the team. The timing caught everyone off guard as the decision went against every narrative that was in the public eye, as Newton and rookie Mac Jones were locked in a contested battle for the starting spot.
“Why Cam Newton is a far less risky choice than Mac Jones to start the season” read a headline in the Boston Globe from Monday. Even Belichick said Newton was “definitely moving in the right direction,” to start the week. By Tuesday morning, it was a wrap. Newton was done and Jones was the new QB1 in Foxboro.
However, as surprising as the move was, it’s not like Newton didn’t know who he was dealing with.
“Everything is geared to win, and if you’re not built for that, that’s not the place for you,” Newton said about New England in February on an episode of I Am Athlete.
“I think Bill Belichick is the most misunderstood person in all of sports,” he later added.
Quotes like that from Newton — on top of the fact that he’s had COVID — are why it was so bewildering when he wouldn’t divulge if he had been vaccinated or not in early August. “It’s too personal to discuss it. I’ll just keep it at that,” he said. It didn’t matter, we would eventually find out that Newton wasn’t vaccinated after he was “subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility” — something that only unvaccinated players have to adhere to — after a “misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities.”
Despite all he had been through, Newton still wasn’t vaccinated.
“By the time I came back, I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said in the I Am Athlete interview when asked about coming back from COVID. “A lot of that discomfort came pre-snap. I’ve always valued my talents as something that’s improv, like, ‘I’m going to make a play, I know how to make a play.’ And this system, it dictated by certain things, and working extra with Josh and Jedd ... throughout those times there were times when it was just like, ‘Hold on...’ I’m lost. I’m thinking too much.”
If Newton wants to continue his career as an NFL quarterback he would be a risky gamble for teams. Due to his age, performance from last season, and his current vaccination status, only time will tell if GMs will be giving his agent a call. Because unlike Kirk Cousins — another unvaccinated starting quarterback — Newton isn’t guaranteed $30 million this season, as he’s reportedly leaving New England with $3.5 million with the Patriots doing him a solid by not trading him, making him a free agent that can sign anywhere.
Since the scandal that led to him leaving Florida to the allegations at Auburn, to his time with the Carolina Panthers and the Patriots, Newton’s entire career can be defined by mountaintop highs and valley lows. And as Newton waits by the phone, the decision may ultimately come down to whether or not he gets vaccinated — which is all the more reason why a quarterback’s ability to take a “shot” to the arm is so important.
If Cam Newton wants to play football again he’ll get vaccinated. If he doesn’t, he won’t. It’s that simple. Choose wisely, Cam. The game needs you.