FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots backup quarterback Bailey Zappe took the majority of reps in an initial passing drill during the media-access portion of practice Wednesday, while Mac Jones did not take a single rep.

Undrafted rookie receiver/quarterback Malik Cunningham also threw during the drill that involved wide receivers and tight ends. Jones stood behind the quarterbacks with newly re-signed practice-squad veteran Will Grier.

In previous practices, Jones took the first reps during this drill and was heavily involved. Last Sunday, Jones was benched for the fourth time this season in a 10-7 loss to the Giants. Zappe took over and led the Patriots on their only touchdown drive of the game to start the second half, but later threw a critical fourth-quarter interception.

Coach Bill Belichick declined to announce a starting quarterback during his Wednesday morning press conference.

Asked what Zappe must do to earn a start amid Jones’ struggles, Belichick said: “Every player, whatever opportunities they have, need to do the best with them that they can – practice, games, even in meetings and other preparation opportunities. So, that’s what a player can do – be prepared, do the best he can, and that’s what each guy will have an opportunity to do somewhere along the line over the course of a long season.”

As for Cunningham, the undrafted rookie has taken the majority of his practice reps at wide receiver since serving as the Patriots’ only backup quarterback during a Week 6 loss at Las Vegas. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien revealed Tuesday the rookie has only taken a few reps as the scout-team quarterback since then. Belichick declined to offer specifics about Cunningham’s usage Wednesday.


“He’s not the only (quarterback) out there,” Belichick said. “It depends a little bit on the offense that we’re seeing. So, if we are seeing offenses run plays that he’s very good at running, teams like Philadelphia, the first Miami game, then you know, he gets – I mean they’re practice squad reps but they’re also reps on things that he does. So, he’s kind of a unique player.

“Things aren’t so straight-lined with him. He’s different than probably every other player that we have on the team. So, he’s handled a little differently.”

JETS: Aaron Rodgers’ improbable comeback from a torn Achilles tendon has taken the next step with New York opening the 21-day practice window for the quarterback on Wednesday – exactly 11 weeks after he had surgery – with Rodgers cleared for some football activities.

Coach Robert Saleh said the four-time NFL MVP, who turns 40 on Saturday, will be limited at practice and is not cleared for contact. Saleh said there’s no added risk in taking this step, emphasizing it’s not necessarily a signal that Rodgers will play again this season.

“For Aaron, what he will be doing in practice is no different than what he’d be doing on the field, with regards to certain drills and individual (drills),” Saleh said. “Instead of throwing with staff members, he’s throwing with teammates.”

LIONS: Detroit put Hendon Hooker on the practice field for the first time, opening a 21-day window to decide whether to activate the rookie quarterback or to keep him on injured reserve for the rest of the year.


Hooker went through drills on Wednesday with the Lions, a little more than a year after tearing a ligament in his left knee.

COMMANDERS: Twelve games and eight losses into a season that has slipped away, Coach Ron Rivera is taking over the defensive play-calling duties — an adjustment for the veteran coach and his team just in time to host the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins and their NFL-best offense.

DESEAN JACKSON will officially retire as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, the team said Wednesday.

Jackson made the Pro Bowl in three of his eight seasons with the team and became the first player in NFL history to earn Pro Bowl honors at two positions – kick returner and wide receiver. He played 15 years overall and had stints with the Los Angeles Rams, Washington, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Las Vegas.

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