FOXBOROUGH — Mac Jones practiced for the second straight day on Thursday as the Patriots held a helmets-and-shells session on the back field behind Gillette Stadium.
The news was not as good for Brian Hoyer, who was placed on injured reserve as a result of the concussion he sustained during the second series of last Sunday’s overtime loss at Green Bay. Hoyer will miss at least four games.
Jones took a few throws and appeared to move more fluidly than he did in previous practices during the brief time reporters were allowed to watch. There is still a hint of a hitch in his gait — he was listed as limited — as he continues to recuperate from a high ankle sprain suffered Sept. 25.
The Patriots have another practice Friday and a walkthrough Saturday, though it’s likely they’ll make an internal decision about whether Jones or rookie Bailey Zappe will start Sunday against the visiting Lions.
Zappe acquitted himself quite well in Green Bay, helping to lead the Patriots to a pair of second-half touchdowns, both of which gave the visitors the lead.
Poise was the buzzword many of Zappe’s teammates used to describe his NFL debut, when he went 10 of 15 for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Zappe, who said his mind-set when it comes to preparing for games doesn’t change no matter where he is on the depth chart, acknowledged he would feel more comfortable for his next NFL experience.
“But I’m going to lean on my teammates a lot,” he said. “They helped me a lot [against] the Packers, and I’m going to lean on them more this upcoming game or whenever it is. I’m really excited for just going to practice every day and getting better.”
Zappe, who worked pretty much exclusively in the shotgun last season at Western Kentucky — where he set FBS marks for passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62) — said he he’s gotten more comfortable working under center.
“That goes along with working with my teammates, working with the coaches,” he said. “Continuing to work with the comfortability with it. [I’ll] just continue getting reps before and after practice.”
Zappe’s connection with savvy veteran David Andrews, who has snapped to Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cam Newton, and Jones among others, has helped.
“Of course, your relationships in football, I mean, it’s a team sport. Your relationships are always important with everybody,” said Zappe. “But quarterback-center, it’s been forever known that that relationship is really important. To be able to talk to him, pick his brain. He’s been in the league a lot longer than I have, for sure. Kind of pick his brain, kind of see it the way he’s seeing it. Pick Mac’s brain, Garrett Gilbert, everybody’s brain, [and] just kind of learn.”
With Jones’s status up in the air and Hoyer out, Gilbert, who was signed to the practice squad on Wednesday, could be a game-day elevation to back up Zappe.
Gilbert, who said he’s been “very impressed” with what he’s seen from Zappe, knows he could find himself in a similar spot as the rookie against the Lions.
“As a backup quarterback it’s my job to just get myself prepared to play. So that’s been my main focus since I’ve been back here,” he said. “Getting myself re-familiarized with offense and just what we do schematically. But that’s part of my job. So that’s been my only focus since I’ve been back here: Just getting myself comfortable, getting myself ready for Sunday.”
This is the 31-year-old Gilbert’s third stint in New England, and he appreciates the familiarity.
“Obviously some things have changed since last year,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got to get back used to the scheme and used to some of the new things, but it’s nice to be on the field and in the huddle with guys that I know and there’s still a lot of familiar faces here, so that’s been really nice.”
Tight end Jonnu Smith, who sprained his ankle against the Packers, was back at practice after missing Wednesday’s walkthrough in the field house and was officially listed as limited … Defensive linemen Lawrence Guy (shoulder) and DaMarcus Mitchell (concussion) were at practice but did not participate … In addition to Jones and Smith, six others were limited: receiver Jakobi Meyers (knee); offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (hip); cornerback Jalen Mills (hamstring); safeties Adrian Phillips (ribs) and Kyle Dugger (knee); and linebacker Raekwon McMillan (thumb) … The Lions were without two of their top offensive weapons at practice for the second straight day with running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) and receiver Am-Ron St Brown (ankle) ailing … The always-entertaining Matthew Judon, a Detroit-area native, did not grow up a Lions fan. He had family from New Orleans, so he adopted the Saints. He was, however, a fan of the Red Wings and Pistons. Also, he didn’t watch “Hard Knocks,” which focused on the Lions this summer. “I’ve never watched ‘Hard Knocks,’ ” he said. He did, however, just finish “Better Call Saul,” and has moved on to “New Girl.”