FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots returned to their frozen tundra behind Gillette Stadium Wednesday, practicing in the cold climes for the first time since Dec. 4, the day the club departed for the West Coast for their Los Angeles doubleheader.
Since then, the Patriots have practiced on the UCLA campus and in their fieldhouse last week to prepare for their game in Miami Gardens.
The practice had a familiar feel, and all indications are a familiar face — Cam Newton — will again be under center when New England hosts the Bills Monday night.
“How about if I let you know if we’re going to make a change,” Bill Belichick said when asked if Newton would remain his starting quarterback now that the club has been eliminated from the playoff race. “We’re not answering that question every day. We’ve been through this for a month.”
The coach indicated Monday the final two weeks could be used as a chance to get an extended look at some younger players and Jarrett Stidham, who has served as Newton’s backup since Week 4, would fall into that category.
Newton has had a mixed bag first season in New England. While he’s rushed for 11 touchdowns in 13 games, the former MVP has acknowledged struggling in the passing game, throwing for 2,381 yards with 5 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The speculation that a change could be on the horizon has led to the AFC East champion Bills preparing for both possibilities.
“We do our due diligence,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday. “Whoever they play, they are both quarterbacks, both play at a high level. So, we have to prepare ourselves to play our best football is how we look at it.”
Stidham has seen mop-up duty in four games this season, completing 18 of 33 passes for 212 yards with 2 TDs and 3 picks. The second-year player has yet to start as a pro.
McDermott has seen positives in the limited amount of tape available on Stidham.
“He looks like a good young player,” he said. “I know he’s only had certain snaps in regular season, but he looks like a good young player and certainly has the athleticism to go with the position. So, we’ve got nothing but a high amount of respect for Jarrett and Cam and their entire program.”
Folk, 36, wants to continue kicking
Nick Folk, who went 3 for 3 against the Dolphins to extend his career-best streak of made fields to 25, said Wednesday that at age 36, he feels like he “still has a lot of leg in me.”
“I feel like I’m kicking pretty well. So, there’s no inkling in me that wants to stop. I enjoy this,” said the 13-year veteran. “I enjoy the guys, I enjoy my teammates playing football. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy kicking. So, I want to keep going, want to keep playing. It’s been a great year to end on a high note here his last two weeks and you know, get a couple more wins under our belt. And then well, we’ll deal with it when the time comes. But I guess I still want to keep playing.”
Folk bested Justin Rohrwasser during training camp and was asked if competing with the rookie fifth-round draft pick, who is on the practice squad, on a daily basis has helped keep him sharp during a season in which he missed his first two kicks but hasn’t faltered since.
“I’m not the kind of the guy to look over my shoulder. I have my own business to kind of worry about on that front. So, I can’t really focus on that at all,” he said. “I’ve tried to help Justin where I can, when I can — when he’s doing some stuff and I’m, you know, not necessarily kicking at that moment. But I try to give him good advice, trying to help him however I can. And then, like I said, I try not to look over my shoulder, I’ve got my stuff to worry about. All I can control is what I can do. So, go worry about what I can control. And that’s the next kick.”
Gilmore placed on IR
As expected, Stephon Gilmore was placed on injured reserve after the cornerback had surgery to repair the quadriceps injury suffered against the Dolphins … The club signed defensive tackle Isaiah Mack, who was released last week, to the practice squad. Tight end Paul Quessenberry was released to make room … Defensive tackle Carl Davis, who returned to practice last week, was absent from practice as he continues his way back from concussion problems that landed him on injured reserve … Because it’s a Monday game, the Patriots won’t have to file an injury report until Thursday … This will be the fifth time the Patriots and Bills have met on “Monday Night Football,” with New England winning the previous four in 1995, 2009, 2015, and 2018.