FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Cam Newton‘s vaccination status wasn’t a factor in the team’s decision to release him.

“No. Look, you guys keep talking about that,” Belichick told reporters Wednesday morning.

“I would just point out that I don’t know what the number is, but the number of players, coaches and staff members that have been affected by Covid in this training camp — who have been vaccinated — is a pretty high number. So I wouldn’t lose sight of that.”

Newton was away from the Patriots for five days last week due to what the team called a Covid protocol “misunderstanding.” He missed three practices over that stretch, which allowed rookie Mac Jones to take control of the team.

The Patriots had disclosed that Newton had undergone daily testing at the time, all of which were negative. According to NFL-NFLPA protocols, Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals — including all players — are exempt from daily testing if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Newton had never confirmed his vaccination status, saying it was personal.

Of the decision to go with Jones over Newton, Belichick called it a “very competitive situation.”

“Both players took pretty close to an equal number of repetitions in total between practice, games, going all the way back to the spring,” he said.