The New England Patriots will practice on five consecutive days between Monday and Friday, but starting quarterback Cam Newton will miss the first three of those sessions. The veteran was absent when the team took the field on Monday morning, with the organization releasing an official statement claiming that Covid-19 protocols dictate he remain out.
Newton apparently left New England on Saturday to travel to a medical appointment. Due to his vaccination status, however, he had to enter a five-day re-acclimation process upon his return and will not be allowed into Gillette Stadium until Thursday.
His absence was the biggest story of the day, and Newton’s teammates were naturally asked about it after the session.
“I think for us, it’s just, ‘It is what it is,’” said Devin McCourty. “I mean, it’s football. We’re used to guys being in and out with injuries and different things like that. I know its cliché and we’ve said it around here for years, but it’s ‘next man up.’ And it’s everybody doing what they have to do, and handling what they have control over and just going about it that way.”
McCourty and Newton both served as team captains for the Patriots last year, but apparently have different views on vaccination. While the safety starred in a PSA informing about the Coronavirus vaccination earlier this offseason, Newton evidently remains unvaccinated or else he would not have been subject to the NFL’s protocols.
Nonetheless, McCourty did not speak ill of his teammate on Monday.
“Vaccination is a personal decision, so that’s up to each individual,” he said. “As far as how the team views that and how we go forward, that’s a Bill Belichick question.”
Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn also took a page out of the same playbook. Asked about Newton’s absence, he steered clear of the topic.
“I don’t feel comfortable speaking on that, so you’ll have to talk to him or ask Coach about it,” he said.
Damien Harris, on the other hand, followed the “next man up” mindset that McCourty spoke about.
“We showed up today, business as business is being done,” the third-year running back said. “We’ve got a new challenge this week. That was our first day back out there practicing. The guys that are out there, we’ve got to go out there and do our job. It’s as simple as that.”
With Newton absent, the Patriots gave Mac Jones the majority of quarterback reps on Monday. The first-round rookie had an up-and-down day, but he will get additional opportunities to keep building momentum on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That Wednesday session will be the first of two joint practices with the visiting New York Giants. Newton is expected back with the team for the second of those sessions.
Until then, McCourty pointed out that the team would just have to “take it in stride.”
“It kind of is what it is. It’s with everything we do. I think with you guys and what you do for a living, I’m sure there’s things that make sense, and there’s other things you have to do that doesn’t make a lot of sense. At the end of the day, it is what it is. You have to abide by whatever it is that you’re being asked to do, or however you want to see the rules, or whatever,” he told reporters on the conference call.
“We just go from there, and I think that’s what each guy’s going to do in the locker room, take care of what they can control. However it turns out for us will be what it is, but guys were out there on the practice fields today putting in the work, getting better. I think that’s the key this time of the year. We have to keep doing that.”
The Patriots will be back on the practice fields on Tuesday, with Jones and Brian Hoyer again serving as the lone quarterbacks present.