FOXBOROUGH — After the Patriots scored their first (and only) touchdown of the season opener Sunday, the CBS broadcast showed quarterback Mac Jones sitting next to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Jones, with his helmet off, was all business. Having just thrown the first touchdown pass of his NFL career, the 23-year-old rookie took a long drink from his cup and then started taking a series of intentional breaths. As McDaniels was talking to him, Jones purposefully inhaled and exhaled, inhaled and exhaled.
“You may think that’s a normal, average thing,” said color commentator Trent Green. “We talked to him about it the other day, and he said, ‘Listen, I have a routine that I go through to keep myself calm.’ Because I asked him, I said, ‘Are you always this calm?’ And he said, ‘Going into a game, you get excited and fired up. I have a way that I relax myself.’ ”
It turns out Jones has heightened the focus on his breathing over the past two or three years.
The summer before his redshirt junior year at Alabama, Jones worked out with Jack Lundgren, a high school teammate from the Bolles School. Lundgren, who went on to get recruited by the US Naval Academy, didn’t just participate in various workouts with Jones. He also introduced him to box breathing, a calming technique often used by Navy SEALs.
The objective of box breathing is to reset one’s breath and heart rate. Among the other benefits are promoting relaxation and releasing tension.
Here’s how it works: Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. Repeat.
“It just trains your body to be able to react and not be stressed that way,” Lundgren told AL.com in October 2020. “It was something that one of his quarterback coaches had mentioned to him in passing, but I really implemented it when we were working out, lifting, and running.”
Lundgren noted he also is a fan of diaphragmatic breathing, which involves breathing with the stomach — not just the chest — and engaging the abdominal muscles.
“I think that’s something that would improve everyone’s lives, just being able to breathe better,” Lundgren told AL.com.
Jones is a believer, too, as he has since incorporated breathing exercises into his routine.
“Just breathing in general, just slowing down your breathing,” Jones said. “There’s some specific things you can do, but for me, that helps because that kind of lowers the pressure part of it, and you just kind of relax a little bit.”
Don’t be surprised if this Sunday’s broadcast once again catches him — or maybe even one of his teammates — taking some intentional breaths on the sideline.
“I think a lot of successful athletes use that,” Jones said. “It just depends on the player. Some people probably focus on it more than others, but especially when you have to run a lot.
“I know the receivers, sometimes they have to focus on their breathing a lot, and then, for me, it just helps just calm everything down.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.