Boston Herald

Pats keep it coy with QBs

Belichick claims ‘still have a lot of decisions to make’

- By ANDREW CALLAHAN

The Patriots’ preseason is over, but Bill Belichick says he still hasn’t decided whether Cam Newton or Mac Jones will start at quarterbac­k Week 1.

“No,” Belichick said after Sunday’s preseason finale against the Giants. “We still have a lot of decisions to make.”

Minutes later, Jones dodged when asked if he expects to start the Pats’ regular-season opener against Miami on Sept. 12.

“Like I always say, I’m just focused on today,” he said.

Jones added he’s improved this summer and seen plenty of opportunit­y. The firstround rookie was the only quarterbac­k to take reps with the starting offense in three practices this week, when Newton was sidelined after breaking the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. He went 10-of-14 for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Giants on Sunday. Jones also took four sacks.

“I think I’ve made progress,” Jones said, “but honestly the only thing that matters is today.”

Jones did say he’ll prepare like he’s the starter moving forward, something he’s done since a young age. Newton started every preseason game this summer and went 2-of-5 for 10 yards and an intercepti­on Sunday. Newton was not made available to reporters.

Tight end Devin Asiasi had a glowing review of the rookie in his post-game press conference.

“He’s great, he’s a great quarterbac­k,” Asiasi said. “I like his confidence already, the way he conducts the huddle out on the field.”

Starters get final tune-up

For years, NFL teams treated Week 3 of the preseason as a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season.

Starters played into the second half, coaches prepared game plans, and the stakes almost felt real. Almost.

With the preseason trimmed to three weeks in favor of a 17-game regular season, it was fair to wonder how teams would adjust this summer. As for the Patriots, they treated Sunday’s finale against the Giants like any other Week 3 — at least to start.

Belichick played his starters on both sides of the ball for two series, then slowly integrated his backups for the rest of the night. Newton started his third preseason game, then yielded to rookie Jones after leading the offense to a field goal and throwing an intercepti­on. Newton departed with all of the Patriots’ starting offensive linemen, with one notable exception.

Center David Andrews was among the 15 players absent at kickoff. Andrews left Thursday’s joint practice with the Giants early, as did starting nickelback Jonathan Jones, who returned for the start of Friday’s practice. Andrews did not.

Of the other 13 absentees, most were expected. Tight ends Hunter Henry and Matt

LaCosse, wide receiver N’Keal Harry, running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Anfernee Jennings, defensive back Myles Bryant and defensive lineman Nick Thurman were also missing. Henry, Bolden and Bryant wore non-contract jerseys in practice this week.

Star corner Stephon Gilmore, quarterbac­k Jarrett Stidham, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and linebacker Terez Hall remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list and have yet to practice this summer. Rookie linebacker Cameron McGrone and rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe were also not spotted at MetLife Stadium, as they continue to sit on the Non-Football Injury list.

Zolak apologizes for Newton comments

Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak apologized Sunday evening for saying Newton looked “distracted” by the rap music played during a team practice earlier this week.

“I’d turn off the rap music, first of all, because I think it’s distractin­g for Cam here,” Zolak said Thursday during a remote broadcast of the midday talk show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “Because in between every throw, he’s dancing. He can’t help himself, to where Mac looks like he came to work again. Like, he’s here to work. And everything’s attention to detail. It’s nothing different.”

Zolak later described Newton as “jacking around” during practice. His comments went viral on social media Friday, when comparison­s were drawn to an old video of Tom Brady dancing to rap music during a Patriots practice, which went without scrutiny.

Zolak, a former Patriots quarterbac­k, expressed his remorse during Sunday’s pregame show on 98.5 The Sports Hub and said he met with Newton that morning to apologize in person. Since signing with the Patriots in July 2020,

Newton has danced in virtually every practice and been praised by teammates and coaches as one of the hardestwor­king members of the organizati­on, a player whose energy and leadership are prized in the locker room. Newton was voted a team captain last season.

“That’s something I know that’s drawn attention for being racially insensitiv­e. I’m sorry for that comment, I didn’t need to make that comment. I should not even ever bring any sort of music into play, because I have no clue what’s going on in a player’s head,” Zolak said Sunday, as transcribe­d by NESN.com. “It’s been a rough last couple days here, and I wanted to do this on air. It’s the first time I’ve been on air since Thursday.”

Zolak later added: “I wanted to talk to him before I talked about this, to let him know. I got a chance to talk to him, and Cam’s nothing but class. Great guy. He handled it perfect. I mean, that’s between me and him. So that’s where I stand by it.”

Entering Sunday, Newton was 12-for-16 for 152 yards with one touchdown, no intercepti­ons and a 125.0 passer rating this preseason.

Belichick talks Wade trade

Shortly before kickoff, Belichick addressed the team’s recent trade for rookie cornerback Shaun Wade during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

On Thursday, the Pats acquired Wade from the Ravens, who drafted him in the fifth round of last year’s draft out of Ohio State. Reports stated the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick and a seventh-rounder to Baltimore. Wade projects to give the Pats depth as a slot cornerback.

“Shaun was a player that we liked in the draft. He has some versatilit­y, played really all the corner positions at Ohio State, inside and outside. He’s a smart guy and can pick things up, multiples up,” Belichick said. “Obviously played at a high level of competitio­n. I’m happy to have the opportunit­y to add him to our group.”

Wade suited up for Sunday’s preseason finale. He wore No. 26.

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 ?? AP PHotos ?? LAST TUNE-UP: Giants tight end Kaden Smith catches a pass for a touchdown as Patriots safety Adrian Colbert defends on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. Top right, Patriots coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline.
AP PHotos LAST TUNE-UP: Giants tight end Kaden Smith catches a pass for a touchdown as Patriots safety Adrian Colbert defends on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. Top right, Patriots coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline.

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