FOXBOROUGH — Entering his third season with the Patriots, Jarrett Stidham’s main objective remains the same: He wants to be the team’s starting quarterback.
“My goal is to be the quarterback here and to start football games for a really long time in this league,” Stidham said Monday after New England’s first minicamp practice. “The mind-set of that has never changed and never will change.”
The opportunity to start has yet to come for Stidham, not even in a meaningless Week 17 matchup against the Jets last season. His 48 NFL pass attempts, with 24 completions and four interceptions, have all come as a backup.
After getting drafted in the fourth round in 2019, Stidham spent his rookie year behind Tom Brady. His playing time was predictably minimal, with just 15 snaps all season. But when Brady decided to leave New England the following year and sign with Tampa Bay, the spotlight shifted to Stidham as the possible heir apparent.
But Stidham’s path to becoming a starter has only become more difficult. Late last offseason, the Patriots signed veteran Cam Newton. This year, they brought back Newton for another year and drafted Alabama’s Mac Jones in the first round.
Stidham made it clear he’s not fazed by the team’s moves at the position.
“I can control what I can control, and that’s how hard I work, how prepared I am, and those things haven’t changed,” he said. “My mind-set has really been the same.”
Stidham, who is under contract through the 2022 season, noted that his comfort level within the Patriots’ system has increased.
“The more you do something over and over, the more you hear something over and over, the more comfortable you’re going to be,” he said. “Going into Year 3, I definitely feel more comfortable within the offense. There’s definitely things I’m still learning and really trying to master, but definitely feeling a lot more comfortable out there, which is good.”
As for whether he was disappointed that he didn’t start a game last season? Even after the Patriots were eliminated from playoff contention?
“I just control what I can control,” Stidham said. “I come in every day, prepare, work. I have a very tight schedule that I kind of run for myself and my program, so to speak, on a daily basis. I try to stick to that, and, like I said, control what I can control.”
Would it be helpful for his development to start a regular-season game?
“I’m going to continue to work as hard as I possibly can to really improve and continue to do what I need to do in order to get better and help this team,” Stidham said.
The Patriots have four quarterbacks on the roster, with journeyman Brian Hoyer also in the mix. Newton, coming off a right hand injury that briefly sidelined him, was the first to go during each passing period Monday, while Jones typically followed, then Stidham, then Hoyer.
Coach Bill Belichick said previously that Newton is the starting quarterback until he is outplayed. Stidham, for his part, is saying all the right things about his intention to contend for the role.
“I’m definitely fired up to be competing against Mac, Hoy, and Cam,” he said. “It’s a great room.
Passing the torch
Matthew Slater shared that he has stepped down as the team’s representative for the NFL Players Association. Slater, who held that post for nine years, ceded the responsibilities to long snapper Joe Cardona, linebacker Brandon Copeland, guard Joe Thuney, and running back James White last season. Copeland and Thuney have since signed with other teams, so Cardona and White will likely split the duties this season. “I think there comes a point in time where you serve in certain capacities and you kind of just feel like my time is going to run its course,” Slater said. “I think it’s important that young guys take ownership and understand the way that this league operates, the business side of this league, the player safety side of this league.” … In addition to cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive linemen Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart, and Rashod Berry, and linebacker Terez Hall were not spotted on the field. Several players left after stretching to do work on a side field.
Smith cuts it short
Tight end Jonnu Smith made his first appearance of the spring, though the prized free agent had his day cut short after he appeared to tweak a hamstring. Smith, who signed a four-year, $50 million pact as a free agent, was a popular target during early individual drills. Smith, who made a nice one-handed grab while falling backward early in the day, consulted with head trainer Jim Whalen about midway through practice and did a couple of light test runs before turning into a spectator the rest of the day. “He was a beast and still is a beast,” said safety/linebacker Adrian Phillips.
▪ During team work, Newton was 12 of 20 with a drop, Jones was 13 of 20 with a pair of drops, Stidham was 8 of 15 with a drop, and Hoyer was 1 of 6 with a drop and an interception (Kyle Van Noy). The rain had a lot to do with the numbers and drops.
▪ Jones had a nice bounce-back day. He showed good command, had a nice pump-fake on one completion, stepped up freely to avoid the rush, recovered a bad snap, and smartly threw one ball away.
▪ Dont’a Hightower went screaming down the middle as a quasi-gunner on one punt return. He will not be doing that during the season.
▪ Rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe was a full participant despite having a cast on his right arm.
▪ Phillips had a nice breakup on a Stidham pass to Smith in the end zone.
▪ Nelson Agholor punted the ball in frustration after failing to come up with a deep pass from Stidham.
▪ The pass rush continues to be terrific, and their quickness caused tackles Trent Brown and Justin Herron to false start. Both ran penalty laps for the infractions.
▪ Despite the daylong deluge, Belichick still poured water on the ball and on holder Jake Bailey’s hands before several field goal attempts.
▪ No truth to the rumor that Bishop Pickering and his caddie, Carl Spackler, tried to play through during the mini-monsoon.