What do you think Robert Kraft’s reaction was when he learned unvaccinated quarterback Cam Newton was going to be unavailable for practice until Thursday because of a “misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities"?
Think how much the Krafts have extended themselves to help this region fight COVID. They opened up the stadium so more than 610,000 vaccinations could be performed. They sent a plane to China last April to transport 1.2 million masks to the U.S. when the shortage was dire. There’s a lot more, but that’s just for starters.
Now think how many hoops the Patriots as an organization have jumped through to get the team back on the field. There’s a business component, sure. Losing money stinks. But only an irredeemable cynic would think the Krafts have extended themselves over and over for good publicity and their bottom line.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
Yet, for the second time, the most forward-facing individual in the Kraft family’s most visible business can’t go to work because of COVID. The first time was last Oct. 3 just ahead of the Patriots' game with the Chiefs when Newton tested positive. Newton was the first quarterback to miss time after testing positive, and time-and-again, we’ve heard how that was the beginning of the end for Cam’s 2020 effectiveness.
Was testing positive his “fault?” Personally, I don’t think someone can be blamed for coming down with a virus during a pandemic. Even though there was scuttlebutt Newton was out to dinner against protocols, what can you do? That was what it was.
But this? This is not.
New England Patriots
A shrug and a “what can you do?” doesn’t cut it. This isn’t “beyond anyone’s control.” First of all, Newton could have very easily been one of those 610,000 who got vaccinated here. He could have traveled his bespoke face off over the weekend and not worried a bit about getting tested.
He chose not to. That’s his right. Which means it’s his employer’s right to exercise conditions that will allow him to participate. Newton didn’t satisfy them. Bottom line.
Did the “misunderstanding” germinate with Newton thinking he could get tested anywhere and didn’t need one of those BioReference tests? Did the Patriots think Newton would be back in time to get his daily BioReference test at Gillette Stadium? Did the Patriots fail to articulate to Newton what he needed to do? Did Newton not get it?
Don’t know yet on any of the above. But I do know this was entirely preventable if Newton merely did what the Patriots and the Krafts have been busting their ass to convince everyone they should do. Get vaccinated.
So now, in the midst of a quarterback competition that really isn’t going his way, Newton will Zoom in his efforts until Thursday. Which means we can fire up the Cam Excuse Generator again.
If it wasn’t for missing those practices Monday through Wednesday, Cam would have been better on Thursday. That really set him back.
If it wasn’t for missing those practices last week, Cam would have been sharper against the Giants.
If it wasn’t for missing those practices in August, Cam wouldn’t have been beaten out by Mac Jones. Facts. Real talk.
Whatever. The bottom line is that Newton submitted one of his best throwing performances since he’s been here last Thursday and won’t do a thing until this Thursday. That’s not Jones’ fault, Bill Belichick’s fault, Robert Kraft’s fault, Roger Goodell’s fault or Anthony Fauci’s fault.
If Newton were vaccinated, he’d be competing for the starting job in-person this week. Bottom line. He isn’t. So he goes virtual.
The Patriots have a 17-game season staring them in the face. Judging by who’s masking and who isn’t in the quarterback room, Mac Jones is the only one who is definitely vaccinated. Newton clearly isn’t. Brian Hoyer has been seen masked on the sidelines so he may not be. Same with Jarrett Stidham, who’s been masked when he wanders out to watch practice.
On Sunday, Josh McDaniels listed all the things that the team’s starting quarterback needs to do.
“We need to be able to play consistently well,” he said. “We need to communicate well. We need to make good decisions. We need to throw the ball accurately. We need to protect the football and not give it away.”
Gotta be honest, it’s hard to do all that from your laptop.