Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- Cyrus Jones smiled knowingly when it was pointed out to him that his new stall inside the Patriots locker room was the same one occupied by Darrelle Revis back in 2014. Though the rookie corner had just been relocated, he was already well aware that one of his idols once set up shop in the same space.

Final cuts have a very tangible effect on the physical makeup of the Patriots locker room. Not only are there typically about 20 fewer players residing inside, but many of the players who remain employed by the team end up having their locker name plates stripped and slapped above new locations. 

Rookies, especially, are often situated in a new area following final cuts. Whereas they might be in the back corner of the room -- out of sight from where Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski hang out -- and sharing a locker with another young teammate throughout training camp, once the regular season arrives, they are suddenly in the middle of things. 

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday that he and his staff don't give the order of the locker room much thought. "I don’t think we’re up late into the night on that," he explained. Still, the move can feel significant for those doing the moving. 

 

Jones was one of those back-corner rookies this summer, but he had his place moved to the center of the room, between defensive captain Devin McCourty and fourth-year veteran corner Logan Ryan. He tries not to nag his new neighbors with too many questions, but he feels fortunate they've already welcomed him with open arms. 

"As a rookie coming in, when you get drafted, you're wondering where you're going to be," Jones said. "How's the locker-room situation going to be? How are the older guys going to accept you? That's a big thing. I think it's taken for granted how important that is for a young guy coming in, just making that transition. The more the older guys accept you and welcome you into the group, the easier and smoother it is for you to kind of make that transition. I'm blessed to have guys like this to be around and have as my teammates and guys to look up to."

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As a second-round pick Jones was never in any danger of having his name plate tossed in the trash, but he also didn't coast off his draft status. He performed well enough this summer to earn himself a spot in the Patriots secondary -- contributing at times in their nickel-and-dime sets in the preseason -- as well as in their kick-return plans. As a result, there has been a lot on his plate. On top of studying the defensive playbook, he's analyzed opposing punters to get a jump-start on their tendencies and how they may try to keep him off balance. 

"I like it," Jones said of the workload. "It's a challenge, but at the same time, it's also a respect thing. That just shows you how much they see in you and what they expect is a high standard. It only pushes you to either meet that expectation or exceed it. I just embrace it, and let it help me continue to kind of study and prepare and to whatever I'm going to face during the season and just elevate my game to the next level and show them that I can do it to their expectations."

Jones already may be close to reaching that level as a punt returner. He recorded returns of 60 and 34 yards in New England's final two preseason games, and Julian Edelman -- who owns the third-best career punt-return average in the Super Bowl era -- calls him a "stud" special-teamer.

In the same way that Jones leans on the advice of his fellow defensive backs, he has received help from Edelman in the return game. And now, from his new locker location, if he ever wants to tap Edelman -- or Ryan, or McCourty, or Malcolm Butler, or Patrick Chung -- on the shoulder going forward, he won't have to travel nearly as far to do so.

 

"I just pick their brains as much as I can," Jones said. "Of course I don't try to bother them too much, but I watch a lot so I'm not always asking questions. Definitely just observing the way they work and go about their business. I feel as though I can learn from them how to continue to grow as a professional and just learn how to just reach the next level in this league."