Trash talking and playful, Jones makes having fun a priority this season
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — As a rookie Mac Jones was never short on smiles.
Practice, press conferences, games — he didn’t miss a chance to display the exuberance of a 23-year-old basking in the opportunity to live out his childhood dream of playing in the NFL.
Last season, he lost at least a smidge of that innocence during a grueling 2022 schedule. He was briefly sidelined by injury while the team stumbled to an 8-9 finish, largely because of issues on the offensive side of the football.
As part of a self-assessment this spring, Jones identified a small, but key component he felt was missing: He wasn’t having enough fun.
“That’s one of the things this offseason I put a lot of thought into is enjoying the game,” Jones said. “It’s good to have fun, but at the end of the day we’re out here working. Putting in work is the most important part. But we’ve got to just have that juice every day. It comes from the leader and the leaders of the team.”
Finding that balance of playfulness and a serious leader is a priority, he says.
Whether that means taking a few extra moments to bob his head to music and dance during pre-practice warm ups or ending a drill with an exaggerated sprint to the sideline in preparation for a field goal try — Jones is letting himself be loose.
The renewed lighter side of of Mac hasn’t gone unnoticed.
During his first two NFL seasons, Jones was a stickler for routine. He kept everything businesslike and the same every day. He tried to be the first and last in the building, while keeping his head down and into the playbook.
He hasn’t gotten away from that at the start of Year 3, but is making room for his teammates to see the more personal side. It’s playful, they say, but not without some edge.
When asked to identify the best trash talker on the offensive side of the ball, receiver DeVante Parker didn’t hesitate in identifying his quarterback as the gabbiest.
“Mac Jones, for sure. Yeah, Mac. He’s the best,” Parker said.
What separates him from the pack?
“The things he says. It’s the quick, subtle sort of trash talk,” Parker said.
That has helped Jones integrate new faces on offense like receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki. It’s also bringing some levity off the field as they all attack the task of adapting to the technical changes brought in by new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
“For me, I’ve always kind of been a fun person — in my opinion,” said Jones, with a chuckle. “I think that’s why people like to play with me because we like to go out there and have fun and compete."
Jones knows it will take more than a few grins to get to Patriots to the top of what will be the toughest AFC East he’s seen during his young career.
But finding the right mix of tweaks is the, well, fun part.
“It always stems from winning, right? And to win you have to do a lot of really good things consistently all the time,” Jones said. “I think I need to do that better and just try and lead the team more so from the mental side and all that stuff. Obviously, the playing and physical stuff is there. I just have to go out there and try to lead.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports