FOXBOROUGH — Cyrus Jones is a stand-up guy.
The Patriots cornerback/returner stood in front of his locker Wednesday afternoon and faced every question as he deals with what he acknowledges has been a frustrating rookie season.
Jones, the Patriots’ top pick in the spring, has been given a number of opportunities to solidify a spot as the top punt and kickoff returner, but has struggled, fumbling four times. His latest misstep came last Sunday when he muffed a punt against the Rams.
Jones, who led the nation with four punt-return touchdowns last season at Alabama, said that despite the struggles, he’s still confident in his abilities and he appreciates the faith that’s been shown in him.
“I’m still confident in what I can do,” said Jones, who has nine punt returns for 42 yards and a team-high eight kickoff returns for 180 yards. “I’m just trying to focus on becoming more consistent, and like I said, just eliminate bad football.
“It’s tough to gain the trust of the coaches when you keep going out there and keep muffing punts and doing things like that. So it’s on me. The coaches keep giving me opportunities because they know what I can do. And once I get the bad football eliminated . . . that’s what I’m focusing on, just trying to be more secure with the ball.’’
Danny Amendola, who had taken over the punt returning duties after Jones’s muffed punt Sunday, reportedly is out until the playoffs with a high ankle sprain, and Jones fully expects to be in the mix to fill that void.
“Danny’s out, so somebody’s got to get back there and do it,’’ he said. “I’ll just take whatever opportunities I get.’’
Jones, who also played some cornerback against the Rams after Eric Rowe exited with a hamstring tweak, refuses to dwell on past mistakes and prefers to look ahead.
Asked if he’s still having fun despite the setbacks, Jones said, “I guess you could say that . . . I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities.’’
For the first time in three weeks, Tom Brady was at a Wednesday practice, moving around during the shells-and-sweats workout nimbly and not looking at all affected by the cranky knee that he’s dealt with since Week 10.
In addition to Amendola, tight end Martellus Bennett, who has been dealing with ankle and shoulder ailments, as well as special teams captain Matthew Slater (foot) and safety Jordan Richards (knee), were missing from practice.
Bennett didn’t practice last Wednesday, either, but was on the field riding a stationary bike.
Rowe was spotted during stretching but didn’t take part in positional drills during the time media were allowed to watch.
“I’m in a good place right now, I’m just trying to take it day by day, obviously,’’ Rowe said. “Hamstrings are nothing to play with, so I’m not going to rush myself out there and get it worse.’’
Doing it all
Jabaal Sheard, who had a standout game against the Rams with four tackles and three passes defensed as he was utilized as a run defender, pass rusher, and in coverage, said he enjoyed playing the varied roles and having different assignments.
“I think if I intercepted one and took it back and scored, I would have been a lot more excited,’’ said the defensive end with a smile. “But obviously, when you’re helping the team win, it’s always fun.’’
Bill Belichick was asked about the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and he reflected on the conversations he had with his father, who was a scout/assistant at the Naval Academy for 34 years.
“Pretty big day in our history, certainly in Naval history,’’ said the coach. “For me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor, and for us as a team and individually, I would say is not what happened on Dec. 7, although that was a lesson there.
“[It’s] what the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians, from our population to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them. What this country did under Roosevelt’s leadership, as well as multiple military leaders, to go fight in Europe, to go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan. The response to what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, is pretty impressive.’’
Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, a Naval Academy graduate, talked about how the day was remembered on campus.
“I think it was just something we all took a moment to reflect upon,” he said, “just having common ties, us all being sailors and feeling the pride we have for the men who came back and survived it and had a huge impact on that war.’’
Stephen Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after belting four field goals — including three of 45 yards or more — in the win over the Rams. It’s the second time this season, and fifth time in his career, that Gostkowski has received the honor . . . Rookie running back D.J. Foster, who played a lot of receiver at Arizona State, was one of seven practice players of the week. The others were Jones, Justin Coleman, Barkevious Mingo, Geneo Grissom, Chase Farris, and Glenn Gronkowski . . . Rob Gronkowski, who is on injured reserve, was named the Patriots’ Walter Payton Man of the Year and is now in the running for the league honor. The award recognizes players for excellence on and off the field . . . Tight end Michael Williams, who tore an ACL during the spring, made a rare appearance in the locker room.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org