Bill Belichick gets evasive when asked about the impact of Cam Newton’s COVID-19 violation

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The New England Patriots have about 20 days until they face the Miami Dolphins in their season opener, and Bill Belichick’s starting quarterback is not at practice.

Cam Newton accidentally violated the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols for players who are not fully vaccinated by missing a daily test. He will miss Monday through Wednesday and is eligible to return to practice on Thursday.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Belichick said Mac Jones has a big opportunity in Newton’s absence. Jones received the majority of the first-team reps over the last two days, putting together a stronger performance on Tuesday than Monday. Newton’s absence is “of course” a disadvantage, Belichick said.

Will the coach treat unvaccinated players differently this year, given their separate set of protocols from vaccinated players?

“The league rules are the league rules,” he said. “We’ll be compliant with them. … This is similar to what it was last year. We dealt with it last year.”

A reporter pointed out that the vaccine makes this year different than last year.

“Every team is dealing with the same situation,” Belichick said.

Does an unvaccinated quarterback put the Patriots at a competitive disadvantage?

“Every team’s got the same situation,” he repeated.

Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Ryan Fitzpatrick have confirmed they are vaccinated. Ryan Tannehill and Sam Darnold were hesitant but are now vaccinated. The list of pro-vaccine quarterbacks includes Derek Carr and Matt Ryan.

Jones has not clarified whether he’s vaccinated.

“I think a lot of guys on our team are, and that’s a good thing. And we’re going to keep moving forward. It’s made it a lot easier to go about the day. But, like I said, that’s a personal choice. It’s up to the players,” Jones said.

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