FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton didn't practice Thursday due to a right hand injury, and first-round draft pick Mac Jones mostly worked behind Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer as he prepares for a possible training-camp competition in late July.
"I'm the rookie so I'm just learning from them. We're all in this together. There's competition but people want to have a misconstrued word there like it is a bad competition or unhealthy," Jones said. "We're all close. We're all going to get better together. That's what we're going to do."
How fast Jones improves and puts himself in position to be the starter is naturally a hot topic in New England after the Patriots selected him 15th overall, the first time coach Bill Belichick has picked a quarterback in the first round.
Belichick often makes the point that the spring is a time for teaching, and the real competition begins at the start of training camp in late July. He previously declared Newton the team's top quarterback, saying time will tell if anyone will challenge him. Meanwhile, Jones called Newton "a good mentor" to him.
"He calls me 'Mac and Cheese,' so I've got my nickname," he said, adding that Stidham and Hoyer have also helped him in the film room as he works to measure up to them in mastering the playbook.
"They can do it really fast. My goal is to hopefully be able to do it even faster every day and I've tried to do that. It's kind of like second nature for them. I have to figure out how to do it fast and execute the plays really fast to a level in a new offense."
Assessing his own progress, Jones, 22, acknowledged that he's had some good days, and then some bad ones.
"It's not going to be perfect every day. It's hard when you're competitive and you want it to be really good every day. It's not going to be like that at first. Eventually you get it and things start rolling your way," he said. "I think it just goes back to following my rules and there's a lot going on in my brain. You're just trying to see everything. Sometimes you see too much or whatever. And then you see nothing. So I have to figure out, in this offense, how I can do that -- how I can break down the plays, what's my job, what do I have to do on this specific play, and then slot the plays individually.
"I did that obviously good in college, or whatever, but this is the pros and I have to figure out how to do it here."
Jones, who led Alabama to the national championship last season while completing a record 77.4% of his passes, described how he has been approaching each day.
"I kind of have two buckets. Things I know in one bucket, and things I keep messing up -- or things I'm not getting -- I have to put them in another bucket and figure out what's wrong," he said. "You have to improve on the bad and keep the good in the good."
The Patriots are scheduled for a final voluntary organized team activity on Friday, and then have their three-day mandatory minicamp starting Monday.
As for what Belichick has seen from Jones' learning of the playbook, he said: "Mac's working at it just like everybody else and there's a lot for all these guys to learn and absorb and it just keeps piling up each day. But as a group, they've worked hard and we're making progress ... things are moving in the right direction."