FOXBORO -- This is new to Cyrus Jones. The growing pains. The dearth of playing time.
He was a star in high school, Gatorade Player of the Year in Maryland in 2011, and he made his way from Baltimore to the University of Alabama to play receiver in 2012. He didn't star as a freshman, but he played in 11 games before making the switch to defensive back. By the time he was a junior, his career had taken off.
His introduction to the NFL has not been quite so seamless.
The second-round pick was made a healthy scratch before the Patriots took on the Bengals last weekend, and Jones is now focused on working his way back into the lineup defensively and as a returner on punts and kicks.
"Of course, just being a competitor, you want to be out there," Jones said Wednesday. "It's tough. But at the end of the day, you gotta take it in stride and keep getting better and trust in the coaching staff. Coach Bill [Belichick] has been coaching a long time and he's coached a lot of players. You just gotta keep working hard and know that your time will come eventually."
Jones had hoped to contribute upon arrival in New England. He's been used as a returner, and he's played sparingly at corner, but he has not yet seized a regular role, which has been the source of some frustration. Successful as he was in college, and though his alma mater is annually one of the best programs in the country, he understands that the attention to detail required to make an impact at the pro level is different.
"Guys come in that are used to being a big fish in a small pond, but now everybody's the best of the best," he said. "Everybody's part of that one percent that actually made it. It just makes it that much more tough. You gotta be on top of your job at all times and just understand that everybody here is a good player. There's less room for error."
Against the Bengals, the Patriots carried Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Eric Rowe and undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones (who has not played regularly on defense but has a consistent role in kick-coverage) as their four corners. In the return game, receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola handled punts while undrafted rookie running back DJ Foster took on the duties of kick-returner.
Jones has not seen the field since being ejected from a Week 5 win in Cleveland for what officials determined was a punch that connected with Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins. Jones contends that he did not punch Hawkins (there is no known video of the punch), and he was not fined, but he was contrite after the fact, apologizing to teammates when the game was over.
"I'm happy I didn't get fined, but it's still not a good look, either," Jones acknowledged. "Especially in Coach's eyes. You gotta be the bigger person in that situation.
"After the game, I just told [teammates], regardless of what happened, I gotta be smarter in that type of situation. It might not have cost us today, but in a bigger game, a bigger situation, that can't happen because it can lead to us losing a game possibly, depending on the situation. I just told them that they'll never have to worry about something like that happening again."
Jones didn't correlate his benching against the Bengals to what happened against the Browns, but he admitted that he had work to do on "just little things, the details that could pretty much determine you making a play and you not making a play, little things like that that you just gotta adapt to as a younger guy quickly" in order to earn the trust of Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff on game days.
"I mean, I'm not playing so I'm definitely not where I want to be," Jones said. "I'm just trying to improve in all aspects. I'm not trying to pinpoint one thing and say I need help here or I need help there. I'm just overall trying to be consistent in everything that I do and let the chips fall where they are after that."
He added: "All you can do is control what you can control and worry about yourself. That's what I've been trying to do and just stay patient with everything. It's still just the beginning for me so just try to keep that in perspective and just go out there and just try to get better at practice."
Like any good corner, Jones is hoping to have a short memory when it comes to some of his experiences thus far as a rookie. The key for him, he explained, is to learn from the missteps, foreign as they've been, and get past them.
"I just think it's about forgetting past mistakes and just trying to move on, make sure things like that don't happen again, whatever the mistake was, however big or however small," Jones said. "You just try to correct that stuff and just show the coaches that you can be consistent. Whenever your number's called again, whenever that is, you just have to be ready to do your job . . .
"I still know what type of player I am and know the things I can do. But Coach is going to play who he feels is the best prepared and can help the team win games. I'm just waiting patiently for my opportunity, whenever that is. Until then, I just gotta keep grinding."