Though it will likely never be stated so explicitly by New England Patriots powerbrokers, Cam Newton's personal choice to not get vaccinated made his pathway to the starting quarterback more difficult and ultimately played a role in his surprising release. It's a simple fact that those who haven't received the needle are subject to more stringent and slow-moving oversight by the NFL, meaning the risk of being unavailable to needy teams greater than those who are vaccinated. Bend it any way ideologically but the reality will remain the same and any franchise serious about putting the best squad on the field has to use it as part of their overall calculus.
Speaking for himself today, Emmanuel Acho made an observation in this vein.
While Newton is still capable of winning football games, his ceiling has fallen a few floors since the MVP season. Simply put, he doesn't as many positives to put on that side of the scale when the elephant of vaccination status is plopped on the other one. If he were still that player, there's a very real argument to be made he'd still be prepping in Foxboro instead of exploring for a new opportunity.
The NFL is a living, breathing business that will seek any advantage. Bill Belichick seems constitutionally incapable of doing something that he believes might hurt his team in the long run. Dealing with the constant stressors of Newton's status knowing full well the Mac Jones era cannot come soon enough just wasn't worth it. Perhaps a different team with differing goals and timeframe will think differently.
If unvaccinated players haven't grasped their situation by now perhaps they never will. But this should be yet another wake-up call.