Secondary Street is one of the liveliest sections of the Patriots locker room neighborhood.
There’s always something happening along the row of lockers where the safeties and cornerbacks hang out. From friendly ribbing about plays made or missed at practice to loud needling about a fashion choice or media scrum, the defensive backs always appear to be having a good time.
While the group has been forced to practice social distancing rather than honing their social skills because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonathan Jones says they’ve gotten the most out of their virtual team and positional meetings.
“It’s been fun. It’s definitely been a changeup to just the closest we have to get the camaraderie of a group,’’ the cornerback said during a video call Tuesday afternoon. “The rookies just joined in with us, so just having that camaraderie, everyone getting to talk and spend time with each other. It’s a little different, but as with everything, you learn to adapt, and it’s been fun to just get back with the guys and have the jokes going back and forth across the meetings, as well as getting back to talking ball at an elite level with the coaches and everyone.’’
Of course, it’s not all fun and banter in the cyber world. Mental reps are being pounded out.
“I think it’s to have everyone on the same mental plane as far as communication,’’ Jones said. “Refreshing [in] that, even for the veteran guys, just hearing some of those terminologies over and over again and starting from scratch. I think that’s something we kind of do every year. We don’t assume that everyone knows anything, so we start on the playbook from Page 1.’’
Communication is vital, according to Jones, whether that’s making a call on the field or tuning into a video call with teammates and staffers. Whether you’ve going on Year 5 like Jones or Year 1 like the rookies, getting on the same page quickly is valuable.
“So, having these meetings and being able to start from Page 1 of the playbook, go through that as veterans it’s refreshers, and young guys it’s to catch them up to where everyone else is," Jones said. "I think the communication of that is so key. We’re missing the physical aspect of it, but just having that communication is very key.”
Jones built his own gym to help him stay in shape but acknowledged he and his teammates are looking forward to a return to Foxborough and some semblance of normalcy to the offseason program.
The Patriots have one of the most seasoned secondaries in the NFL, with veteran leaders occupying every position. Jones said those leaders, including Devin and Jason McCourty, and Patrick Chung and Stephon Gilmore, helped him transition to the NFL and it is part of the reason the group has been able to thrive despite the inevitable personnel changes from season to season.
“I’ve been able to learn a lot. The mentorship from Devin and the older guys like that,’’ said Jones, who believes the experience in the secondary could be an advantage during a time when teams have limited time to install changes. “It’s impacted my career so much because they’re always willing to help the young guys and just that transition year after year, coming into a place like New England, which is not easy to play for. Having those veterans who have done it and have done it at an elite level, it’s just some easy footsteps to follow.’’
With the Patriots facing one of the league’s toughest schedules, Jones said he hasn’t given much thought to a slate that will include two West Coast trips and a road date against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
“I’d say I guess I’m conditioned by Bill [Belichick]. I’ve been here for going on five years. I’m conditioned to just know every year is a new year, every team is a new team. Everybody has changes and their winning percentages from last year kind of doesn’t matter,’’ Jones said. “You know, teams will go 0-6 to start and then pick up better. So, just taking it one day at a time. I think the first thing we have to do is get in training camp and figure out who we are as a team. That’s where it’s really going to start. And then, like I said, teams evolve as the season goes on, as every year. But we have to figure out who we are first. The other teams really don’t matter at this point.’’