FOXBORO, Mass. — No New England Patriots player faced more criticism last season than Cyrus Jones.
The team’s top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jones never found his footing as a cornerback or return man during his rookie year, and he ultimately was removed from the lineup entirely, spending the entire postseason as a healthy scratch.
Patriots fans, who have developed a hatred for anything short of perfection, were not happy about this, and they weren’t shy about letting the young defensive back know it.
Speaking with reporters after Tuesday’s practice, Jones was asked how he felt about this overwhelming negative attention. His answer? As long as it’s not coming from a coach or teammate, he couldn’t care less.
“I mean, that’s life,” Jones said. “It is what it is. I know what I play the game for. I know who I play the game for. The people out there that are saying this and that, that’s not important to me. They’re not out there on the field. They’re not my teammates. They’re not my coaches. They’re not my family. So, I mean, they really don’t mean anything. They’re fair-weather fans. They’re going to be with you when you’re doing good, and as soon as you do something bad, they’re on to the next. I’ve been dealing with that all my life. It don’t do nothing to me.
“Like I said, that’s life. That goes far beyond football. You know who’s in your corner, and you know who’s not. I don’t dwell on the people that really mean nothing to me. I don’t know them, they don’t know me. All they’re doing is watching, spectating, criticizing. They’re not Bill Belichick. They’re not guys in this locker room. Those are the only people that matter when it comes to critiquing my play.”
Jones’ second NFL preseason has not been without its bumps — most notably the 97-yard touchdown pass he allowed in New England’s first exhibition game — but his play in the return game has improved immensely. He’s displayed far better ball security and decision-making, and he showcased his athleticism on two impressive punt returns Saturday against the Houston Texans.
That steadiness on special teams has greatly improved Jones’ chances of securing a roster spot, though he still is not a lock. Others vying for the Patriots’ fifth cornerback spot include Justin Coleman, Kenny Moore and D.J. Killings.
“I just try to not get too high on it and not get too low with anything,” Jones said. “I just try to keep an even keel, take the positives from the game and take the things you did negatively and try to correct those for the next week. I think you can do that with anything. It’s just like any game or any practice. It’s a building block for the next step, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images