Mac Jones said Cam Newton has been a welcoming mentor for him as the young quarterback begins his New England Patriots career.
And yes, Newton already has a nickname for New England’s top 2021 draft pick.
Jones smiled as he discussed his relationship with the Patriots’ current starting QB after Thursday’s organized team activities practice.
“It’s been good,” Jones said in a video conference. “He calls me ‘Mac & Cheese,’ so I got my nickname. But he’s done an awesome job being a good mentor, and he brings great energy. And Brian (Hoyer) and Jarrett (Stidham) have done a good job of helping me in the film room. All three of them, I just watch their reps and learn as much as I can. You don’t have to be in on that play to learn, so I just have to figure out how to do that. I’ve been getting a lot better just watching tape and learning how to do that, and they’ve helped me in that regard.”
Jones practiced alongside Newton, Hoyer and Stidham in the first six Patriots OTAs, but Newton has been unavailable since suffering a hand injury in last Friday’s practice. The three healthy QBs rotated during Thursday’s open OTA, with Jones seeing a smaller share of 11-on-11 reps than his veteran counterparts.
Stidham, who led off each drill, went 8-for-9 in 11s and 11-for-14 overall. Hoyer completed eight of his nine passes in 11s and 11 of 13 overall (and delivered several of the day’s most impressive completions). Jones was 4-for-5 in 11s and also took a sack. The rookie finished the day 6-for-8 overall with one drop.
Newton also missed practice Monday and Tuesday, and his status for next week’s three-day mandatory minicamp remains unclear. Jones, who could push the 2015 NFL MVP for the starting spot with a strong summer, said his mindset “doesn’t really change” when Newton is sidelined.
“For me, it’s just about me getting better,” Jones said. “It’s not being selfish or anything, but I have a lot of room to grow, and I have to make strides every day and kind of have two buckets where the things I know, keep in one bucket, and the things that I keep messing up or the things that I’m not getting, I have to put them in another bucket and figure out what’s wrong.
“So I’ve just got to take that approach and learn from all the quarterbacks. It’s not just me — learn from the older guys on the team, watch them practice and learn how to practice the best way I can so that when we get to the games, it’ll be easier.”
Jones is coming off a historically productive senior season at Alabama during which he completed 77.4 percent of his passes, threw for 4,500 yards, tossed 41 touchdown passes with just four interceptions and led his team to an undefeated season and a national championship. The Patriots drafted him 15th overall, making him the first quarterback New England selected in the first round since Drew Bledsoe in 2003.
After drafting Jones, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Newton will remain the Patriots’ starter until another QB — Jones, Stidham or Hoyer — “play(s) better than he does.”