TUCSON, Ariz. — As the Patriots walked off the practice field Wednesday at the University of Arizona, New England’s young leader had a message for his teammates.
Just because the Patriots aren’t back home in Foxboro, Mass., this week, quarterback Mac Jones stressed, that doesn’t mean they should be approaching their preparation for Sunday’s vitally important matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders any differently.
The post-practice reminder was another example of the more vocal leadership role Jones, a first-time team captain, has adopted in his second NFL season.
“I’m not going to lie to you, obviously we’re chasing a result this week,” longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater said after practice outside Arizona Stadium. “You ask what’s going to make this a successful week, it’s going to be winning the game. But I think in order to do that, it’s going to be about preparation, and Mac said it (Wednesday) — trying to keep our routine as close to normal as possible. Whether it’s on the practice field, in the meeting room, recovering.
“We’re not on vacation, and it’s easy to fall into that when you’re away from home. So hopefully we do all those things and they translate to the game on Sunday.”
Jones “echoed that sentiment to the guys,” Slater said. Third-year linebacker Josh Uche appreciated the QB’s words.
“I definitely love it,” Uche said. “You definitely want a guy that cares about the game and takes it very seriously. He’s putting it all out there, wearing it on his sleeve, and I can respect that.”
Slater and safety Devin McCourty — who also was voted captain in his second Patriots season and has held that position ever since — have pushed Jones to be more vocal and hold his teammates accountable.
“I think he continues to find his voice,” Slater said. “I think one thing Devin and I do is to encourage him to exercise his voice more. It’s sometimes tough when you’ve got a guy like Devin, you kind of feel like you’ve got to defer to him all the time, but I think Devin has really been intentional about like, ‘Hey, this is your team. You need to speak up. You need to take ownership,’ and I think he’s done that. And that’s tough. I don’t care who you are, in Year 2, that’s going to be tough.
“But he’s done a really good job of that. It’s great to see him continue to grow in that role. I know we look to him for that leadership, and he’s done a great job.”
Jones hasn’t been shy about expressing himself on the field, either. In each of the last two games, television cameras have caught him reacting to negative plays with profane outbursts. His coaches have said they don’t mind these occasional displays of frustration, with offensive play-caller Matt Patricia insisting he “loves” them and QBs coach Joe Judge saying he wouldn’t want to coach a player who didn’t have that type of passion for the game.
This is the third time the Patriots have spent a week away from Gillette Stadium this season, participating in a set of joint practices outside Las Vegas during the preseason and practicing in South Florida ahead of their Week 1 matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Sitting at 7-6 after their 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, they’ll look to bolster their case for an AFC playoff spot when they visit the 5-8 Raiders on Sunday.