New England Coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Tuesday a high number of Patriots players had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine as the team gets ready to open training camp with their first open practice Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium.

“Quite a few of them, most of them probably,” Belichick answered, when asked specifically about the percentage of Patriots who were vaccinated, “but whatever the protocols are, we’ll follow them. Those are individual decisions. There are categories for everybody. So, whatever they fit, they fit.”

During training camp and beyond, vaccinated players will be wearing one color wrist band, while non-vaccinated players will wear another color, per league mandate.

“I guess you would call this like Wristbandgate or something?” safety Devin McCourty said. “I don’t know. I think for us, we’re all here trying to figure all of this out.”

“It’s required to differentiate them,” said Belichick.

New England, according to the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride, is already dealing with its first positive test for a player with second-year tight end Devin Asiasi testing positive for the coronavirus, despite having been vaccinated. McBride also reports that Asiasi is not with the team and is quarantining.

Per league protocols, because Asiasi is vaccinated, he can return to the team as soon as he produces two negative tests 24 hours apart. The former third-round pick was expected to be the New England’s No. 3 tight end entering camp, after free-agent additions Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Asiasi struggled for most of his rookie year before recording his first career catch and touchdown in a two-reception showing during the team’s season finale against the Jets last January.

With the league coming down strong on the issue, saying games wouldn’t be rescheduled for COVID-19 outbreaks, that teams would have to forfeit and players not receive game checks, it’s caused some consternation within the ranks. Was Belichick wary of the issue splitting the team?

“A lot of those things are out of our control,” said Belichick. “We’ll deal with the things we can control and go from there.”

Special teams ace Matthew Slater described it as “a very emotional tough issue for a lot of people, people that have strong feelings and opinions about the way things should be done.”

“We’re gonna make sure that everyone feels supportive,” Slater said. “There are certain decisions that have to be made one way or the other and I think that guys should feel comfortable to make decisions that they feel are best for them and their families, and we’re gonna support them in doing so.”

Belichick also confirmed that Carmen Bricillo would be the offensive line coach. This comes in wake of Cole Popovich’s departure due to COVID vaccine-related issues.

Belichick, however, wouldn’t go into any detail about the league’s protocols, saying “it is what it is.”

STEPHON GILMORE has reported to training camp, but after holding out of minicamp he still doesn’t have a new contract in hand.

The Pro Bowler is signed for less than $8 million – below market value for a player of his caliber – and will open the summer on the PUP list as he rehabs a quad injury. Defensive captain Devin McCourty spoke glowingly of Gilmore’s abilities on Tuesday morning, and said he isn’t sweating his teammate’s contractual dispute.

“All that stuff usually gets resolved,” McCourty said on a video conference call. “And whenever a player’s contract comes up it’s between kind of between the player and the team, so that all will be figured out. It was good seeing my guy again.

“And like I’ve always said, he’s one of the best corners in this league. He’s been the best guy for the last couple of years, obviously defensive MVP, and he’s really made this defense operate at a different level when he’s out there. So anytime I get an opportunity to be out there on the field with him, gives us a better chance to win, makes us a better defense. So it is great having you here in the locker room and on this team.”


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