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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick feels good about his future quarterback already. Belichick praised rookie first-round pick Mac Jones on Friday, saying Jones has already “earned a lot of respect” from the team.

Belichick praised Jones for understanding how the Patriots like to operate. Belichick said Jones is giving his best effort to make improvements, and that Jones is doing it the way the Patriots have asked him to do it.

Belichick made those comments during Friday’s virtual meeting with the media. He began talking about Jones around the 17:17 mark.

Belichick’s comments read: 

“He has a pretty good understanding of the things that we do and then he has to go out there and do them and get comfortable with them, so it’s a process. We’ve had a number of other players at that quarterback position come in and go through that. Sometimes it starts a little slower and picks up. Sometimes it starts a little higher and slows down. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

“He’s working hard and he puts in a lot of time. Certainly, [he’s] given his best effort to do everything we’ve asked him to do and do it the way that we’ve asked him to do it, which is a great place to start. He’s earned a lot of respect for that. He’s got a long way to go. And we’ll see how it goes.”

The Patriots selected Jones with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He’s expected to sit behind Cam Newton until either Newton struggles or Jones proves he’s ready.

Cam Newton injures hand at practice

Jones’ timetable could accelerate if Newton gets injured. Newton reportedly left a practice drill Friday due to a hand issue. Newton had his hand checked out by trainers. Newton remained on the field, but did not participate in drills after that evaluation. Newton did not speak to reporters and the Patriots did not provide an update on whether Newton has an injury. Assuming Newton is fine, he should be the team’s starter in Week 1 of the regular season.

If Jones is pushed into action early, oddsmakers at BetMGM may have to increase Jones’ odds of winning the Rookie of the Year award. Jones is currently listed at +1200 to win the award, behind Trevor Lawrence (+275), Justin Fields (+500), Trey Lance (+700) and Zach Wilson (+700). Jones is also listed behind tight end Kyle Pitts (+1000), receiver Ja’Marr Chase (+1100) and running back Najee Harris (+1100) to win the award. 

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