New nickname in hand, Pats rookie Jones finding his footing

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Mac Jones has his new nickname.

He also is slowly getting more comfortable existing in the whirlwind that has been his first month as an NFL rookie quarterback.

“Yeah, it’s been good,” the Patriots’ first-round selection said Thursday when asked to describe how his relationship is developing with incumbent starter Cam Newton. “He calls me Mac ‘n Cheese so I’ve got my nickname.”

Newton, who appointed himself as the team’s nickname guru last season, was not on the field Thursday for the third straight voluntary workout after injuring his throwing hand last week.

Coach Bill Belichick said he expects Newton to be fine, but his absence did provide an opportunity for more reps for the team’s other three quarterbacks, Jones, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.

The Patriots are scheduled to hold a final voluntary workout Friday before opening their three-day mandatory minicamp next week.

Despite not being on the field recently, Jones said Newton has provided a lot of leadership and has been generous with his time in showing the former Alabama star the ropes thus far.

“He’s done an awesome job being a good mentor. He brings great energy,” Stidham said. “Brian and Jarrett have done a good job of helping me in the film room. All three of them – just watch their reps and learn as much as I can. You don’t have to be in on that play to learn. I just have to figure out how to do that. I’ve been getting a lot better at just watching tape and learning how to do that and they’ve helped me in that regard.”

Jones has been a little timid at times when throwing the ball downfield during the limited portions of practice the media has been allowed to view. But he said his comfort level is growing with each workout.

“Really, just an everyday grind, so when you’ve got to come in and get your routine. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out – what’s my routine?” Jones said. “In college you have one routine, in the NFL you have another. Every day you kind of fiddle with things. Obviously, there’s things that I like that I’ve done and things I need to adjust.”

One of the biggest adjustments has been learning how to watch film in “an NFL manner.”

“It’s different than college. There’s more to it. It’s pro football. I’ll figure it out,” Jones said. “I’m continuing to grow in that aspect. I’m obviously trying as hard as I can. It’s not like I’m leaving early or doing anything like that. We’re all just trying to get better.”

That has included taking stark coaching and criticism at times.

Asked recently about how he’s approaching integrating Jones into the mix, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he’s always been a fan of brutal honesty.

“With the quarterback room, the best thing about coaching these guys is — and we’ve got four great guys in the room — is you coach all of them hard and you coach them all fairly and you coach them all to what they need,” McDaniels said. “One of them might need a kick in the butt once in a while and one of them might need a pat on the back. What all of them need is good honest communication and constructive criticism.”

Jones said he wants to be pushed hard.

It’s how he was coached by longtime Belichick friend and confidant Nick Saban at Alabama and it’s what he expects at this level.

“I’ve gotten hard coaching my whole life, so I’m super hard on myself. Sometimes it’s hard,” Jones said. “Josh, he expects everything to be perfect. That’s why he’s so great at what he does. Our relationship is great. He does that with all the quarterbacks, so if you miss one detail, it’s not good enough.

“As a rookie, you want to try to get everything right, but you’re not going to. So I just have to accept that and try to be the best I can be.”

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