FOXBORO, Mass. — Matthew Slater isn’t an expert on quarterbacking, but he really likes what he’s seen from Mac Jones thus far.
The New England Patriots’ longtime special teams captain was highly complimentary of his team’s rookie signal-caller Tuesday, lauding Jones’ character and ability to command respect within the locker room.
“Well, I think he’s a great young man,” Slater said in a post-practice media session. “Character really counts when you talk about what we do off the football field, the way we carry ourselves. The way we approach our profession. The way we do things in the community. That translates to the football field.
“And I think Mac is a fine young man. His family should be proud of the way that they raised him and the way he carries himself. The way that he commands respect of even guys like myself — older guys that have been here for a while. And he’s earned that respect by the way that he’s gone about his craft. So he’s been a joy to work with.”
Slater said he’s been impressed with the Patriots’ rookie class as a whole, which is headlined by former Alabama teammates Jones and Christian Barmore. Jones (first round) is challenging incumbent Cam Newton for the starting quarterback job, and Barmore (second round) looks poised to play a significant role on the Patriots’ defensive line.
“This rookie class has really been fantastic,” Slater said. “They’ve all carried themselves with a great deal of humility and just come out here and worked each and every day. As a veteran player on this team, you kind of appreciate rookies like that.”
This is an important week for Jones, who’s seeing extended first-team reps while Newton is sidelined following a “misunderstanding” over COVID-19 testing protocols. Newton’s NFL-mandated reentry timetable forced him to miss practice Monday and Tuesday and will sideline him for Wednesday’s joint practice with the New York Giants, as well.
Jones logged a total of 40 reps in 11-on-11 drills during Tuesday’s practice, completing 29 of 36 passes.
“I think he’s been progressing really well,” said tight end Jonnu Smith, who caught five of those passes on six targets. “Just taking everything from the media rooms, on the fields, and just executing it. You can just tell he’s getting comfortable and he’s settling in. Everything’s going to work out for him. He’s a hard worker, so I’m looking forward to seeing him do great things.”