Patriots cut Cam Newton, clearing way for Mac Jones to start

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The Mac Jones era in New England has begun.

The Patriots released Cam Newton on Tuesday, paving the way for the rookie to open the season as New England quarterback.

Newton’s release came hours before NFL teams had to downsize to 53 players and abruptly ended his stay in New England. Newton was 7-8 as a starter in the Patriots’ first season since Tom Brady left and signed with Tampa Bay. New England finished 7-9 for the year.

“I really appreciate all the love and support during this time, but I have to say please don’t feel sorry for me !! #imGOOD,” Newton posted on Instagram Tuesday.

Running back James White said Newton’s departure is an example of players never knowing what to expect when roster cuts are made.

“Cam did his best for us and competed extremely hard. … He’s a good football player, ”White said. “I hope he gets another chance to get back on his feet.”

Newton started each of New England’s three preseason games, but he also missed five days of practice before Sunday’s exhibition final against the New York Giants after a “misunderstanding” of protocols. the NFL COVID-19. Newton went to an out-of-town doctor’s appointment and, as he is not vaccinated, had to stay away from the team for five days.

Newton tested positive for COVID-19 last season, forcing him to miss a game. The prospect of him being unavailable again because he was not vaccinated may have played a role in the Patriots’ decision.

Meanwhile, Jones has been impressive throughout training camp, displaying an ability to lead the attack on the pitch and bounce back from his mistakes. This has helped him earn the respect of the coaching staff and veteran players.

“He’s accepted the challenge and he’s trying to push us, speaking out in the group,” White said. “He built that confidence more and more. You have just started to believe it.

Jones won a national title last year in Alabama under Nick Saban, a longtime friend and former colleague of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Jones noted the similarities between the two coaches and said it has helped him fit into Patriots culture.

Another former Alabama and linebacker Dont’a Hightower said last week Jones’ work ethic stood out in the locker room. He also noted how he had recently heard that the rookie had examined the Patriots’ defensive play to help him conceptualize how opposing defenses might attack.

“I give him credit for it because not many young guys would see this as an opportunity and he did it on his own,” Hightower said.

Belichick acknowledged at the time that the absence of Newton’s COVID-19 protocols presented an opportunity for Jones. The rookie grabbed it, putting in a strong performance in the first of two joint practices with the Giants.

“I’m going to be ready whenever my time comes,” Jones said after Sunday’s 22-20 win over New York. “We have some work to do and we’ll work it out and then we’ll keep riding.”

Although he didn’t start any exhibition matches, Jones took 107 snaps at 38 for Newton. He completed 69% (36 of 52) of his passes for 389 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

“Mac did a great job,” Patriots center David Andrews said. “He came and worked very hard. He obviously did a lot of very good things.

When drafted in April, Jones became the first quarterback selected in the first round during Belichick’s stint in New England.

The Patriots’ decision means it could mark the second time since the NFL-AFL merger that more than two rookie quarterbacks have started opening games.

Trevor Lawrence was previously named a starter in Jacksonville; Zach Wilson is expected to start for the Jets; and Jones is set for the New England opener against Miami on September 12.

Five rookie quarterbacks started the opening games in 2012.

“I learned at a young age to prepare myself as the starter,” Jones said Sunday. “You don’t have to be the starter, but you have to prepare yourself and get into your routine.”

NOTES: CB Stephon Gilmore has been placed on the Physically Unable to Play roster, meaning they will not be eligible to play for the first six games of the season. Despite some precision issues in the Patriots’ second exhibition game, rookie kicker Quinn Nordin beat veteran Nick Folk enough for the starting spot. It extends New England’s 18-year streak with an undrafted rookie making the initial roster of 53 players.

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