The Patriots will be without Devin Asiasi for an undetermined amount of time after the second-year tight end tested positive for COVID-19, a league source confirmed Tuesday.
Asiasi, who has been vaccinated, is not with the team. His positive result came within the last week and he experienced mild symptoms. Once those fully subside, Asiasi must produce a pair of negative test results within a 24-hour period to return to the club, per NFL protocols.
For now, the 24-year-old Asiasi will continue to work remotely.
When asked earlier Tuesday how many of his players were vaccinated, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “Quite a few of them … most of them, probably.”
In other player news, the club released wide receiver Devin Smith, according to a league source.
This is the second time in a week that a COVID issue has affected the Patriots. Cole Popovich, who was the co-offensive line coach last year, will not be with the club in 2021 after refusing to be vaccinated — a league requirement for coaches and staff. Carmine Bricillo, who shared the job with Popovich last year, will have his role expanded.
“Carm will be coaching the offensive line,” Belichick said Tuesday, adding that he expected a “full complement of the team” to report for camp. “Again, these are all things that play off the protocols from the league and so forth, so I’m not going to get into that any further.”
Veteran center David Andrews said, “I appreciate Cole and always will love Cole, and he was a great coach. I’m just focusing on what we can do in training camp here, and the hand we’re dealt right now.”
Training camp practices begin Wednesday — the conditioning run for newly arriving players was the only physical work Tuesday — and things will have more of a sense of normalcy than 2020, but not quite back to pre-pandemic times.
“The setup on camp operationally is more like it was in 2019,” said Belichick. “We’re still, of course, following all of the league protocols and policies on health and safety and so forth.
“There are certain requirements on vaccinated versus unvaccinated players and different tiers and so forth and access to the people in the organization and fans and so forth and so on. Whatever those are, they are. We’ll follow those. Our staff and organization have done a great job of making those accommodations.”
Asiasi, a third-round pick in 2020, is projected to be third on the depth chart and will be battling for snaps at the position behind high-profile free agent acquisitions Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry when he returns.
Smith was signed to the practice squad late last season before signing a futures contract. He previously has been with the Texans, Cowboys, and Jets.
As for other team business, Belichick declined to comment on cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who held out of minicamp and is seeking a bump in pay, and receiver N’Keal Harry, who has requested a trade through his agent. Both players are in Foxborough, though Gilmore is on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he continues to rehab a partially torn quadriceps suffered late last season.
Belichick did say that with the start of camp comes a “clean slate” for everybody in the organization — and that includes the quarterbacks.
“Every one of us has to go out and establish our level of performance whatever our role or capacity is,” he said. “It’s a new season. We’ve done some things in the spring, but this is really the start of football season in terms of the team-building part here in training camp.
“We all have a lot of work to do. That includes all of us. Until we go out and do anything, I’d say it’s pretty much a clean slate.’'
When asked if that included an open quarterback competition, Belichick said, “Including all the coaches and all the players.’'
On draft night, Belichick said that Cam Newton, who held the starting job in 2020, would remain atop the depth chart, while leaving open the possibility that he could be beaten out.
The Patriots selected Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick, and the rookie quarterback and Newton were impressive during organized team activity sessions and minicamp practices this spring. They will continue their battle Wednesday.
Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are the other quarterbacks on the roster. Stidham was placed on the PUP list last week for an undisclosed reason, though the third-year player can come off at any point and practice.
Belichick said the first few practices of camp will be an extension of the spring, when teaching was the emphasis. Things will start to look more like football next week when the pads come on for the first time.
“Then it changes and it ramps up, if you will, and [continues] with the preseason games, and the opportunity to have joint practices,” said Belichick , with a reminder that there are only three exhibition games this year.
“That’ll be kind of a different type of training camp in terms of what’s going on and what’s happening and the opportunity to evaluate and then we’ll extend to some degree into the period after that prior to the start of the season.”