FOXBORO, Mass. — Despite playing on different sides of the ball and never sharing a practice field, Mac Jones and Stephon Gilmore developed a close relationship during the twilight of the latter’s New England Patriots tenure.
After the Patriots traded Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, Jones explained how the star cornerback went out of his way to help him improve his game.
“I think Steph’s obviously a great player,” the Patriots’ rookie quarterback said. “I never got to practice against him, (but) he actually helped me a lot, just talking with him. He’s like, ‘Hey, I see you do this on film,’ or whatever. So he definitely played a good role for me just in talking with him. A lot of the guys on the team have a lot of respect for him.
“He’s a great player, he’ll continue to be a great player and I wish him and his family nothing but success. We don’t have control over (trades), and it’s not our decision to make that decision. He’s going to be great. It was an honor just to get to know him, and we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
Jones said he and Gilmore, who was on the physically unable to perform list and not practicing, “actually (talked) a lot” from training camp through the first few weeks of the regular season. During that time, Jones beat out veteran Cam Newton for the Week 1 starting QB job and showed obvious potential in his first four pro starts.
“Just in the training room or whatever it may be, I just kind of liked to talk to him,” Jones said. “I asked him if I was ever going to get a chance to go against him, and we just kind of talked some smack back and forth. He’s a good dude.”
Jones wasn’t the only player to benefit from Gilmore’s behind-the-scenes contributions. Several Patriots defensive backs have noted how he helped them during meetings and film study, with cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino nicknaming him “Coach Steph.”
“He’s just an all-around good football player,” Jones said. “Obviously, it is what it is. We had our conversations, just like I have with a lot of older guys on our team. They always have good advice, so regardless of who it is — coach, player, scouting, whatever — I just try to take the advice, listen to what they have to say and take it and improve my game. … He had some good points.”
The Gilmore trade, which netted the Patriots only a 2023 sixth-round draft pick, concluded a months-long contract dispute between the team and the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That Gilmore was around the facility and actively assisting his teammates despite his contractual unhappiness says a lot about his character.