BOSTON (CBS) — The statement issued by the Patriots on Monday regarding Cam Newton’s forced absence due to COVID protocols left some questions among those outside the organization. Namely, how on Earth could Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots and Cam Newton not have known the rules?

On Thursday morning, with Newton set to return after his mandated five-day absence, Belichick was asked precisely that question by The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.

Earlier this week, Shaughnessy was critical of the way the Patriots rolled out the Newton news, only announcing his absence after Belichick spoke to the media.

Three days later, with Newton set to return to practice, Shaughnessy got to ask the questions for which he sought answers. Belichick provided answers the way Belichick typically does, referring back to the statement and not offering much more. Belichick did, however, stress that Newton did not go against the team’s rules or wishes when making his trip out of town.

Here’s how the exchange went.

DAN SHAUGHNESSY: “Little misunderstanding on the Newton thing I don’t quite get. Newton was gone for you for five days and it was characterized as a misunderstanding. Was he told he could go or did he not know the rule or did you not know the rule?”

BILL BELICHICK: “Yeah, don’t really have anything to add, Dan. We released a statement. I think that covered it as thoroughly as we can without, you know, getting into a lengthy thing. So we’ll just leave it at that.”

SHAUGHNESSY: “OK, it’s just, for us, it allows the possibility that he either went without permission or someone didn’t know the rule, which is very unlike you guys. And I know it’s important to be at practice and he’s a pivotal guy on your team, so it just leaves us a little bit out there as to the motivation for why he did this and if he knew, and if you knew, or if he went against team rules.”

BELICHICK: “No, he didn’t go against team rules. But there was a misunderstanding and it’s exactly what I said it was in the statement.”

SHAUGHNESSY: “So he was unaware he would lose the five days?”

BELICHICK: “It’s exactly what I said it was in the statement.”

SHAUGHNESSY: “OK, thank you.”

It wasn’t quite as contentious as the Monday tweet might have foretold, but the line of questioning did get Belichick to add the minor detail that Newton definitively did not go against the team’s wishes.

The statement on Monday said that Newton left the area for a “Club-approved medical appointment,” indicating the Patriots signed off on the trip and that the team and player simply neglected to realize that COVID tests not administered by the NFL’s approved lab would not be accepted by the NFL. Belichick said on Tuesday that he had nothing to add to the statement, and reiterated that stance on Thursday.

Following Thursday’s joint practice session with the Giants, quarterbacks Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer are scheduled to speak to the media, but Newton is not.

CBSBoston.com Staff