FOXBORO, Mass. — JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t out to the start that he or the Patriots wanted. Be it a lingering knee issue or a poor offensive fit, or both, something is keeping New England’s top offseason acquisition from delivering.

But Kendrick Bourne, who’s become close with Smith-Schuster, wants Patriots fans to practice patience with the veteran receiver.

“They just don’t understand,” Bourne told on Friday. “You gotta look at the bigger picture. You know what I mean? You may want somebody that makes spectacular plays, but you also need somebody that’s gonna be consistent in doing the right thing, being in the right spot. Because you never know which play might be the most important.”

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Smith-Schuster, who recently admitted to being frustrated with his lack of production, posted just 10 catches for 66 yards in his first three games. Big plays basically were nonexistent, with Smith-Schuster neither providing explosive playmaking on the outside nor chain-moving plays from the slot. He basically was sprinkled in from time to time.

In fact, it’s the poor plays that stood out the most. From a pair of miscommunications with Mac Jones to a bad, ill-timed penalty, Smith-Schuster’s lowlights balanced out the highlights.

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The 26-year-old, who signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract during the offseason, surely wants to be more involved. But Bourne doesn’t expect his teammate to become a malcontent.

“JuJu’s very smart,” Bourne said. “Whatever people are saying right now about him, all the noise … he plays his role well. And he understands his role. In the (receiver) room, we don’t look at it as trying to be No. 1. We look at it as, ‘We’re working together.’ So, whoever’s game it is, it’s their game. And whoever’s game it’s not, it’s just not. And I think we do a good job of understanding that, and that’s going to help us in the long run.”

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Bourne made sure to drive that point home. And he believes Smith-Schuster’s been a big part of the receiver group’s ability to maintain on- and off-field camaraderie following the departure of Jakboi Meyers.

“I think it was huge,” Bourne said of Smith-Schuster’s ability to fit in immediately. ” … When we get to a very important game, we don’t wanna be on the sideline complaining about the ball or anything. And I think that’s what I respect most about JuJu. He could easily do that, but he doesn’t look at it that way. And I think that is the biggest part of his character: He understands his role. And our room does a good job of understanding our role.”

Perhaps Smith-Schuster rounds into form in the near future. Maybe he’ll experience a breakout game Sunday afternoon when the Patriots visit the Dallas Cowboys.

But reports about both his knee and the coaching staff’s current view of his ability suggest fans might be waiting a while. And even if Smith-Schuster doesn’t turn into New England’s top receiver this season, Bourne knows there’s more at stake than individual statistics.

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“So, just to the people: Y’all gotta understand that there’s so much more that goes into it than just getting 100 yards every game,” Bourne said. “We’re not trying to do that.

“We really want to win.”

Featured image via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images