By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Even though he was a rookie in his first NFL training camp, and there was a veteran ahead of him on the depth chart, Mac Jones prepared all summer as though he would be the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots. So when Jones beat out Cam Newton and was named New England’s starter ahead of the season, the 23-year-old wasn’t too surprised by the news.

“Not really,” Jones told WEEI on Tuesday, as he prepares to face the Miami Dolphins in his first career NFL game on Sunday. “Like I’ve said, I was preparing to be the starter.

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“Nothing changes; I’m trying to be a good teammate, learn the plays and fix what I messed up on,” he added. “I listen to Josh [McDaniels] and take the advice from teammates like I always have since I’ve been here. Nothing really changes, but it’s exciting.”

The writing was on the wall for Jones to take over for Newton, who was released on cut-down day. As he impressed over and over again in camp and during preseason action, Jones saw more time with New England’s first teamers. He really took the reins in one of the final weeks of camp, while Newton was away from the team for a misunderstanding over COVID protocols, clearing the way for Jones to lead the charge in a joint practice with the New York Giants.

Jones learned of his elevation on the depth chart with the rest of his teammates in a team meeting. That the news came out on cut-down day made it a little difficult to celebrate, but it’s still something that he is proud of.

But Jones is far from finished. The real work starts Sunday afternoon at 4:25 p.m.

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“It’s a great opportunity and something I’ve always wanted to do – be a starting QB in the NFL. But a label is just a label,” he said. “You have to go out and produce.”

Whatever free time Jones has these days is spent on football. He’s constantly studying his playbook — and New England’s defensive playbook as well — and making sure that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He said that he even has his girlfriend help him study plays, joking that they go through “walkthroughs” together.

Jones also said that he’ll remain in touch with Newton, and is grateful for everything the former MVP helped him with in their time as teammates.

“He was a really good mentor to me and I know we’ll stay in touch. Ever since I came here he knew that I was here to help him and he was here to help me. I never felt like we were butting heads,” Jones said of Newton. “Cam is a great guy and a great player; hopefully he lands somewhere and gets a chance. It was nice to learn from him and I hope to keep learning from Brian [Hoyer] and the guys in the quarterback room. Everyone is in it together, it’s not just a one-man show. I’ll keep learning from whoever I can learn from and be a sponge.”

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Tune in to Patriots-Dolphins on Sunday, Sept. 12 on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots! Coverage begins Wednesday night with Patriots 1st Down at 10:30 p.m. on TV38 and continues Friday night with Patriots All Access at 7 p.m. on WBZ! Our opening day coverage begins with Patriots GameDay at 11:30 a.m., the Patriots and the Dolphins kick off at 4:25 p.m., and after the game switch over to TV38 for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!

CBSBoston.com Staff