It’s widely believed that Cam Newton’s vaccination status contributed to his release from the Patriots earlier this week. But, when denying this theory, head coach Bill Belichick got into some trouble with the NFL league office.
The all-time great coach questioned the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, arguing that a “pretty high number” of vaccinated players and coaches have tested positive.
“You guys keep talking about that, and I would just point out that I don’t know what the number is,” Belichick said when asked what role the vaccine played in Newton’s release. “I mean, you guys can look it up. You have the access to a lot of information, but the number of players and coaches and staff members that have been infected by COVID in this training camp [around the NFL]who have been vaccinated is a pretty high number, so I wouldn’t lose sight of that. . . . We have other players on the team who aren’t vaccinated, as I would say, probably does every other team in the league. We’ve had minimal throughout the league. There’ve been a number of, quite a high number I would say, of players who have had the virus who have been vaccinated, so your implication that vaccination solves every problem, I would say that has not been substantiated based on what’s happened in training camp [throughout the NFL]this year.”
On Friday, NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills denied these assertions from Belichick.
“We released our data last week from the first three weeks of August, and that data has consistently shown higher rates of infection in unvaccinated players than in vaccinated players,” Sills said, per Judy Battista of NFL Media. “That was true at intake when they first came into training camp and it was true during that first three-week period of August that we released. From a medical perspective, go to any major medical center in the country and as you walk around, those patients who are hospitalized, those who are in the ICU, you see the evidence the vaccines are working.”
The other day, Bill Belichick said he thought a pretty high number of vaccinated players had gotten COVID, & the contention the vaccine solves everything hadn’t been substantiated during training camp. Yesterday, I asked NFL CMO Dr. Allen Sills what he has seen on those issues. pic.twitter.com/MBfpX3xhJY
— Judy Battista (@judybattista) September 3, 2021
Sills acknowledged that some vaccinated individuals are still testing positive, but those who are vaccinated have far less severe symptoms and recover much quicker.
“We know that vaccines are working,” Sills said. “What we are seeing are some vaccinated people who test positive. But their illness tends to be very short and very mild, and that’s exactly what the vaccines were designed to do. Let’s all remember the vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. They’re doing a terrific job of that so far, not only in the NFL where we haven’t seen any serious cases but in society as a whole.”
Newton was forced to miss a crucial week of practice leading up to the preseason finale due to a missed COVID-19 test.
Unvaccinated players this season will be forced to continue daily testing and miss more time if they’re deemed high-risk, close contacts.