Patriots coach Bill Belichick clarified remarks he made last week about the efficacy of the COVID vaccines.
“My comment relative to the vaccinations or, really, the way I feel is that that’s an individual decision for each person to make,” Belichick said Monday morning. “As a team, we’re better off if everybody is vaccinated.
“That being said, even if everybody was vaccinated, it doesn’t solve all of our problems, as we’ve seen multiple players, head coaches, and assistant coaches throughout the league test positive for COVID even after they have been vaccinated.”
Belichick made headlines last week when he said the implication that vaccines “solve every problem” has not been substantiated. In response to questions about the release of quarterback Cam Newton — and whether Newton’s vaccination status was a factor — Belichick pointed out that “a pretty high number” of vaccinated players, coaches, and staff members have still tested positive for the virus.
Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi had to miss the beginning of training camp because he tested positive despite being vaccinated.
In an interview with NFL.com Thursday, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, pushed back on Belichick’s initial comments.
“We know that vaccines are working,” Sills said. “What we are seeing are some vaccinated people who test positive. But their illness tends to be very short and very mild, and that’s exactly what the vaccines were designed to do.
“Let’s all remember the vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death. They’re doing a terrific job of that so far, not only in the NFL, where we haven’t seen any serious cases, but in society as a whole.”
According to data collected between Aug. 1-21 by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the infection rate among unvaccinated individuals (2.2 percent) was seven times higher than that among those who are vaccinated (0.3 percent).
The league’s health and safety protocols are much stricter for unvaccinated individuals than for those who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated players will miss at least 10 days if they test positive and five days if they are a close contact. Vaccinated players will miss time only if they test positive and can return once they are symptom-free and log two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Not all Patriots players are vaccinated, but Belichick has elected not to share the team’s exact numbers. The NFL said last week that 93 percent of all players are vaccinated.
On Monday, Belichick reiterated that a player’s vaccination status is not a factor in roster cuts, but also stressed the importance of remaining conscientious in regard to health and safety.
“It’s still incumbent upon us to be vigilant in our daily hygiene and decision-making for the health and safety of each of us individually and our team,” he said. “We’ll continue to follow all the league protocols as we always do. But that’s not a factor in any player’s release or non-release on the team.”
Hunter Henry appears ready to play
It sounds as though tight end Hunter Henry will be ready to go on Sunday.
Asked if he has any doubt about his availability for the season opener, Henry replied, “I wouldn’t say doubt, no. I’m just trying to get better every single day, apply myself every day, and be ready to go when it comes.”
Henry did not play in any preseason games because he was recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during a training camp practice. The injury was not considered serious, but forced Henry to remain limited in several practices. He shed his red non-contact jersey last Tuesday.
While sidelined, Henry said he focused on maintaining his conditioning level as well as taking as many mental reps as possible.
“A big shout out to you know our training staff,” Henry said. “I mean, they’ve been great. I just try to follow their program, what they’re doing here. It’s been awesome, so feeling good and just trying to get better and continue to get better every single day.”
Belichick addresses David Patten’s death
Belichick offered additional condolences to David Patten’s family Monday, three days after Patten died in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina.
“On behalf of the team and the organization, just want to send our deepest sympathy and condolences to David Patten’s family, his wife, his children, and his friends and his other loved ones,” Belichick said. “David was a great contributor. When I first got here, he started in 2001 and he was a great contributor, both on and off the field. He was an inspiration to his teammates, his coaches, and everyone in the organization.
“His leadership, because of the example that he set and the way he competed and performed in big games, he was one of the most respected players, honestly, that I’ve ever been around and it’s just with a great deal of sadness that we heard that news on Friday. And again, our hearts go out to the Patten family.”
A couple of players changed their jersey numbers ahead of the season opener. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor will now wear No. 15 instead of No. 13, while N’Keal Harry, who previously wore No. 15, will take No. 1, the number he wore in college at Arizona State. Rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore is switching from No. 70 to No. 90.
All in attendance at practice
The Patriots had perfect attendance on their 53-man roster and practice squad at their Labor Day practice. Of note, running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Matt LaCosse, and cornerback D’Angelo Ross wore red noncontact jerseys … Defensive lineman Nick Thurman reached an injury settlement and cleared waivers … Defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who was released last week, signed with the Saints . . . The Miami Dolphins placed starting left tackle Austin Jackson and tight end Adam Shaheen on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. Shaheen will miss the season opener against the Patriots because he is unvaccinated and tested positive . . . Patriots players and their families gathered on Cape Cod over the weekend for a cookout hosted by team owner Robert Kraft. Said Henry, an Arkansas native: “I hadn’t been to the Cape, so I was really looking forward to it, you know, me and my wife. It was cool to be able to see kind of around the Cape, how beautiful it is.”
Jim McBride of the Globe staff contributed.