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Bill Belichick says Cam Newton to return Thursday, but there’s ‘no timetable’ for Patriots QB decision

Boston
Boston
 2021-08-26

The Patriots head coach confirmed Newton would be back for Thursday's joint practice with the Giants but wouldn't say how he'll split reps with Mac Jones.

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Up until about last Sunday, one could argue no one was benefiting more from the Patriots’ quarterback competition than head coach Bill Belichick.

With both his quarterbacks playing well in camp and putting on good performances in last Thursday’s preseason game, the team’s quarterback situation felt as stable as it had all training camp.

Furthermore, it gave Belichick the power to wield the duel between Cam Newton and Mac Jones to his advantage competitively. Despite saying Newton remained the starting quarterback Monday, Belichick declined to name the veteran his Week 1 and didn’t even rule out the possibility of using both quarterbacks.

The goal: keep everyone guessing up until the last moment.

Newton’s unexpected (though not totally surprising) absence from practice this week, including from Wednesday’s joint practice session, threw a wrench into those plans for a moment. But with the former MVP back at practice Thursday, Belichick was back to keeping things as murky as possible with the quarterback position.

“I don’t really have a timetable for that,” he said when asked by reporters Thursday morning when he’d officially name a Week 1 starter. “Can’t tell you.”

After this week of practice, however, it’s clear to see the momentum in this competition is pointing solidly in Mac Jones’s direction.

The rookie quarterback had a sterling joint practice Wednesday in which he commanded the Patriots’ offense from start to finish, dicing up the Giants’ secondary with relative ease.

Furthermore, Jones entirely monopolized the starting quarterback reps during competitive periods, taking every bit of work Belichick and Josh McDaniels could throw at him.

Newton typically gets the lion’s share of the starting quarterback reps when he’s at practice even on days when Jones gets more snaps overall. When asked whether the incumbent starter would return to his normal workload Thursday, Belichick simply answered, “All the quarterbacks will get work today.”

Thursday’s workout, like Wednesday’s, could be a pivotal point in the Patriots’ quarterback position (at least with the limited information available).

Another strong performance from Jones would continue a consistent string of good practices and would further build his case for the starting job, perhaps even regardless of how Newton plays.

On the other hand, a good day from the veteran passer could, at the very least, continue the intrigue heading into Sunday’s preseason game.

Right now, the job looks like it could be Jones’s to lose no matter how many times Belichick or McDaniels reaffirm Newton’s position. But it’s likely we won’t know how serious the Patriots are about starting the rookie until at least next week.

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