FOXBOROUGH — At the podium for his weekly media session Thursday, veteran David Andrews was asked who was starting at quarterback for the Patriots Sunday against the Chargers.
“We’ll see,” the center said with a small smile.
Although Andrews — nor any of his teammates — wouldn’t profess to know who will be under center, it appears Bailey Zappe will get the start ahead of Mac Jones.
In the locker room after Thursday’s practice, Zappe yielded to Bill Belichick.
“That’s a Coach [Bill] Belichick question,” he said. “I’ll let him answer that.”
Belichick has been evasive the last week-plus in naming a starter prior to the game. He didn’t tip his hand in the days leading up to the 10-7 loss to the Giants last Sunday, and has been similarly coy this week.
“I’m not going to make any announcements on our lineup at any position,” Belichick said Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter what the position is. We’ll see how practice goes, and we’ll see if everybody is ready to go. Hope everybody is ready to go. See what the injury situation is. And we’ll go with what we think is best on Sunday.”
Signs are pointing toward Zappe making just the third start of his NFL career. In the brief window the media were allowed to view practice Wednesday, Zappe got the bulk of the reps while Jones stood off to the side.
Regardless of how the reps have been doled out over the week, Zappe said his approach has been the same.
“Nothing is set in stone,” he said. “[I’m] just taking it day by day, treating every rep I get in practice like it’s a game rep, and preparing like I do every other week.
“It’s cliche to say it, but I try to prepare every week like I’m the starter, as far as watching film, studying the plays, and getting with the guys,” he said. “So for me, this week isn’t any different. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win. It’s pretty simple.”
And the prospect of leading a 2-9 team to a much-needed victory?
“Winning solves everything,” he said. “Just go out there and execute on the offensive side, we’ll look up at the end and see what the score is.”
If he does start, Zappe would get the call for the first time this season at the expense of Jones, who has found support in the locker room this week. On Wednesday, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster called Jones “professional” and praised him for being able to stay “positive.” Tight end Hunter Henry hailed the quarterback as a “competitor and a leader” who will remain ready in case things change.
“He comes to work every single day, he’ll be the same guy,” Henry said of Jones, who has thrown at least one interception in all nine losses this season. “He’ll be ready for whatever opportunity will come.”
Zappe started a pair of games last season. He said he was able to learn from those experiences, and anticipates being able to apply them if he gets the call.
When asked about keys he could carry over from 2022, he said, “Just doing your job. Trying to limit turnovers, and win.”
Zappe indicated he felt good when it came to understanding the offense, and said he and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien “get along well.”
“Every week [we] always watch film, and if there’s a play that I see that beats a certain defense, I always throw my two cents in,” he said. “Whether [the coaches] put it in there or not, that’s their decision. I don’t think this week is any different.”
The second-year signal-caller out of Western Kentucky also praised the other quarterbacks on the roster, singling out Jones for his support, as well as rookie Malik Cunningham.
“If he gets an opportunity, Malik is a great player,” Zappe said. “He’s dynamic. He can play everywhere on the field. That’s a great thing for him.
“He’s versatile, and he’s a great teammate, too. It’s awesome to have him in the locker room.”
Zappe has endured a wild ride over the past few months. He’s been cut and re-signed, and now stands again on the precipice of starting. He reflected on the journey Thursday.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “Been a lot of talks with [Matthew] Slater and Coach and everything. But it’s been part of the journey. Everyone says it’s part of your book, part of a chapter. Whatever you want to say. It’s been fun. A lot of learning. I’m excited.”