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Patriots release Cam Newton, opt for Mac Jones as starting QB

(Getty Images / Abbie Parr)

The Patriots will evidently have their third rookie quarterback to ever start a regular season opener when they suit up for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

As was first reported by The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride and later confirmed by the team itself, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and company released former starting quarterback Cam Newton as the organization makes cuts to get down to a 53-man roster.

The news may come off as a surprise, given Newton’s reps as the franchise’s top quarterback throughout training camp ahead of his second year with the team.

However, the former league MVP did miss practice time due to the league’s COVID-19 protocols, specifically related to Newton’s status as an unvaccinated player and what the Patriots called a “misunderstanding” regarding daily COVID-19 testing.

>>RELATED: NFL’s COVID-19 protocols for 2021 training camp and preseason

In Newton’s absence, Jones stepped in for first-team reps at quarterback, and reportedly shined under the spotlight. A few days later, he showed poise in the second half of the Patriots’ preseason finale against the New York Giants.

The monumental move clears the way for the rookie from Alabama to slide in under center for his first career NFL start.

If everything else holds up, Jones would start his career against another Alabama product in Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is entering his second year in the league.

>>RELATED: New England Patriots All-Time Draft: Team reporters, NFL writers take their pick of historic Pats players

Jones would become just the eighth rookie starting quarterback in franchise history, and the first since Jacoby Brissett led the team under center in a Thursday night game against the Houston Texans in 2016.

Newton reportedly signed a one-year, $14 million contract back in March of 2021, but the deal was reportedly heavily based on incentives tied around playing time and performance. Per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, about $6 million was tied to incentives.

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