August 23, 2021
BY Lance Cartelli

Patriots Must Start Mac Jones Week 1 Following Cam Newton's COVID-19 'Misunderstanding'

Cam Newton's time as New England Patriots starting QB could be coming to an end sooner than he hoped.  

After all the arguing about who should start at quarterback for the Patriots when New England battles the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, the picture just got a lot more clear Monday.  

Newton, the Pats' incumbent starting QB who is unvaccinated against coronavirus, will be away from the franchise until Thursday due to what the team is calling a "misunderstanding" of the NFL's COVID-19 protocols. 

"He received daily Covid tests, which were all negative. Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility," the Patriots announced.

While Newton has the choice to remain unvaccinated, it comes at a price. Albeit, one that pales in comparison to contracting and potentially spreading the virus. It should cost Newton his starting QB job in Foxboro. 

Despite Newton's best performance of the preseason, the Patriots must start first-round pick Mac Jones against their AFC East divisional rivals in Week 1. 

Newton's selfish choice to not get vaccinated not only hurts his already minuscule chances to keep the starting job, but he also put his team at a competitive disadvantage. Imagine if this had happened in season and Newton was forced to miss a pivotal game. Instead, the former NFL MVP will miss valuable joint practice time against the Giants which will give his main competition a clear shot to steal the job from Newton. And there's nothing Newton can do about it unless he can figure out a way to convince Jones to try the Milk Crate Challenge in hopes he gets hurt. 

Otherwise, this is Jones' job to lose now. But it's not just because of Newton's decision to not get the jab. Jones was already putting pressure on Newton. 

The No. 15 overall pick has looked solid if unspectacular in his two preseason games under center. While he doesn't have the eye-popping arm strength or speed of, say, a Justin Fields or Trey Lance, Jones is as advertised. He's calm, cool, collected in the pocket and can operate the offense efficiently, which is exactly what the Pats are looking for after a rollercoaster of a season with Newton at QB. 

In the Patriots' demolition of the Eagles, Jones was 13-for-19 for 146 passing yards and a 91.1 rating. That kind of performance — along with Newton's absence — will make it a lot easier for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels to allow the rookie to be the team's Week 1 starter. 

It was only a matter of time until Jones started this season, but thanks to Newton's "misunderstanding" and selfishness in the ultimate team game, it's the perfect storm for the fifth first-round QB selected in the 2021 NFL Draft to be starting from Day One. 

Then the pressure will really be on

Photo: Getty Images