By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots turned cutdown day upside down Tuesday morning when the team released Cam Newton, handing the keys to rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Releasing the veteran quarterback caught just about everyone off guard, though those who shared the locker room with Newton aren’t all that surprised.

It’s not that Newton was expected to be cut on Tuesday, but that Patriots players have learned to expect the unexpected on this particular day.

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“On this day every year, you never know what to expect,” veteran running back James White said prior to Tuesday’s practice in Foxboro. “There are a lot of transactions that go on across all 32 teams so you never know what is going to happen.”

“This is a tough day in this business,” added center David Andrews. “[You lose] a lot of guys, teammates, that you have been familiar with and teammates for years or whatever it may. It’s always a tough day in this business, unfortunately it’s part of it.”

NFL teams need to have their rosters down to 53 players by 4 p.m., meaning hundreds of players will be out of work by Tuesday evening. Though all signs throughout the preseason were pointing toward Newton being New England’s top quarterback, Bill Belichick opted to make the move to the rookie now, rather than wait for it to happen during the regular season.

Newton was well-liked in the New England locker room, with teammates drawn to his positive attitude and the energy that he brought to the field each and every day. Those attributes will be missed by his now-former teammates.

“Cam did his best job for us and competed extremely hard. It’s unfortunate to see him go,” said White. “He’s a good football player and I hope he gets another opportunity to land on his feet.

“He definitely brought energy to the locker room and the practice field,” White added. “A guy who could lift the spirits of the room at any time. He worked extremely hard and tried to give his best every day. It was fun having him over the last year or so.”

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Now the focus shifts to Jones, whom the Patriots drafted 15th overall in April after an incredible final season at Alabama. The rookie has turned heads throughout the offseason and into the preseason schedule with his command of the huddle and play on the field, and his New England teammates are confident that the 22-year-old will be able to lead the way in his first NFL season.

“He’s a guy who, ever since OTAs, minicamp, training camp, has been pushing himself and getting more and more confident,” said White. “He’s been working extremely hard. Playing quarterback as a rookie is not easy, but he’s accepted the challenge and is trying to push us, speaking up in the huddle, building that confidence more and more.”

Andrews, the man responsible for getting the football to Jones, says that the rookie has been impressive in just about every aspect of the game.

“He’s done a good job being vocal at times, making mistakes and keeps moving forward. That’s part of it,” said Andrews. “We all make mistakes and as a guy who has gone through that a bit, you see that and keep moving forward. In a football game you’re going to do something wrong. But give up a sack one play and then go run block or block them again. … I think he’s done a good job, but we all have a lot to improve. We have another chance to do that today.”

And it’s not just Jones’ play on the field that has gotten the attention of his teammates. He has a great command of the playbook after being with the franchise for just four months, and is learning new things each and every day.

“We could tell he has what it takes from the first practice with him,” said White. “He’s constantly learning and trying to improve. He’s tough on himself, but he has high expectations for himself.

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“He wants to control the huddle and makes sure all the guys in there believe in him,” added White. “There is a lot of stuff a quarterback has to do, and he’s constantly in the film room, constantly asking questions and finding ways to get better.”

CBSBoston.com Staff