The New England Patriots have raised eyebrows by announcing the release of Cam Newton, the NFL career leader in quarterback rushing touchdowns and 2015’s Most Valuable Player. He is now a free agent; his position will be filled by rookie Mac Jones, who had “a terrific summer in training camp,” according to the Boston Globe. Newton, on the other hand, tested positive for COVID early in the season, and admitted that his time out affected his ability to learn the team’s notoriously difficult playbook. Some fans have speculated that Newton’s vaccination status, which he has publicly declined to divulge, was the final nail in the coffin. (After a medical appointment last week, he had to wait five days to rejoin the team, which is only enforced for unvaccinated players.)
“I really appreciate all the love and support during this time but I must say… Please don’t feel sorry for me!! I’m good,” Newton wrote on Instagram after the announcement. The Pats’ first game of the season, against the Miami Dolphins, is on Sept. 12.