Why Bill Belichick Finally Let Mac Jones Wear a Real QB Jersey Number

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Mac Jones, No.10 of the New England Patriots looks to pass in the first half against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

On Thursday, New England Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones stepped on the field for his first NFL action in a preseason game against the Washington Football Team. When he came out of the tunnel, he wore a blue Patriots jersey with No. 10 on the chest. This was a different look from minicamps, OTAs, and training camp, where Jones wore a No. 50 jersey. The reason that Jones started his career with this non-traditional QB number is part of a long-standing Bill Belichick tradition. It’s a ploy to get rookies to buy into “The Patriot Way.”

Bill Belichick makes all rookies wear numbers in the 50s to start their career

Every rookie that comes to Foxborough initially gets a number in the 50s, regardless of position. Traditionally, the franchise’s first overall pick gets No. 50. The second gets No. 51, and so on. However, Nos. 56 and 57 are retired for Andre Tippett and Steve Nelson, respectively, so they skip over these jersey numbers.

The idea behind this unique jersey number situation is that Patriots rookies should be more focused on learning New England’s systems and culture than worrying about what number they will wear. It is a small tradition, but one that Belichick swears by after years of success.

Come the first preseason game, however, rookies must don a position-specific jersey number. Belichick, ever the master-motivator, likey spins this as a “Welcome to the Patriots” moment. However, he has no choice but to let the rookies wear numbers for their positions. The NFL’s (recently updated) policy on which positions can wear which jersey numbers determine the range of these mandatory numerals.

Mac Jones (and his rookie classmates) earned their real numbers ahead of the team’s first preseason game

The Pats selected eight players in the 2021 NFL Draft and signed an undrafted kicker. Each of these players finally got their actual number ahead of New England’s preseason opener against Washington. The new jersey numbers for the game were:

  • Round 1: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (No. 10) 
  • Round 2: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (No. 70)
  • Round 3: Ronnie Perkins, DE, Oklahoma (No. 51)
  • Round 4: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma (No. 38)
  • Round 5: Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan (No. 45)
  • Round 6: Joshua Bledsoe, S, Missouri (No. 34)
  • Round 6: William Sherman, OT, Colorado (No. 68)
  • Round 7: Tre Nixon, WR, UCF (No. 87)
  • Undrafted free agent: Quinn Nordin, K, Michigan (No. 3)

All these first-year players likely won’t make the Pats’ final roster, but they at least got to suit up in an official Patriots jersey for a (semi) real NFL game. According to reports by Boston sports radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub, it looks like all these rookies survived the first round of cuts. This means Patriots fans will get to see the jersey numbers on the players listed here at least one more time the team takes on the Philadelphia Eagles in preseason game No. 2 on Thursday, August 19. 

Jones looked like a real NFL QB, and not just because of his jersey number

New England fans may be excited that Mac Jones’ jersey finally matches the one they went out and bought after the April draft, but they are certainly even more excited after seeing the young QB in action.

Jones looked very comfortable running the Pats’ offense. With a style that is very familiar to Alabama Crimson Tide fans, the rookie signal-caller dropped back, made quick decisions, and threw smart, accurate passes. No one will confuse Jones with Brett Favre or Josh Allen, but he looks exactly as advertised after a few series with his new team.

This might be bad news for incumbent starter Cam Newton, who looked much more boom or bust in his first series of 2021. While the former NFL MVP will still likely start the season under center for the Patriots, if the wins don’t come early and often, look for Jones to be in there sooner rather than later.

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