FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —Four days after Bailey Zappe made his NFL debut, the rookie Patriots quarterback responded like a veteran when asked whether he expects to make his first start this week.

“If that’s what happens, that happens,” Zappe said Wednesday. “That’s (for) Coach (Bill) Belichick. That’s a question for him. I’m not going to get into those details.”

Zappe’s coyness aside, things seemed to be trending in that direction as New England began preparing to host Detroit.

Zappe was pressed into service in the second quarter of the Patriots’ loss at Green Bay last week after Brian Hoyer was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Hoyer had started in place of Mac Jones, who has an ankle injury.

Hoyer is in the concussion protocol and sat out Wednesday’s practice. Jones was listed as a limited participant, had both ankles wrapped tightly and moved with a slight limp as he tossed passes.

For Jones, that’s progress from last week, when he appeared at the Patriots’ final practice but was inactive for the game.


Belichick said the coaching staff is still in a “day-to-day” mode regarding who will start this week. He acknowledged Zappe will benefit from having extra practice time.

“He had the whole week for preparation last week,” Belichick said. “In terms of preparation – like snaps, we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.”

In the meantime, Zappe said he is leaning on the relationships he’s been building with teammates since he was drafted. That includes Jones, whom he said has been a good resource.

“They’ve been good,” Zappe said. “He’s been very helpful. Same for me, I’ve been doing everything I can to try and help him out with everything going on. We’re just trying to be the best for the team.”

Zappe is still adjusting to taking snaps under center, something he didn’t do much in Western Kentucky’s shotgun-based system.

“A lot more comfortable than I was about a year ago,” he said. “That goes a lot working with my teammates, working with the coaches. Continuing to work with the comfortability with it. Just continuing to get reps before and after practice.”


Lions Coach Dan Campbell coached Zappe during the 2022 Senior Bowl and said he exhibited same kind of poise then that he did coming off the bench last week for the Patriots.

“I thought they did a good job with him of just trying to get him settled in and being smart and not putting him in a bind, continue to run the football, do things to get the ball out, and then a little play-action,” Campbell said.

Zappe said the lessons he learned just from being on the field last week are immeasurable.

“There’s a lot of things,” he said. “There are some things that I’ve learned from just my fundamentals. Being able to calm myself down and just continuing to focus on my job and what my job is at the end.”

NEW FACES: The Patriots fielded two new, yet familiar, faces at practice Wednesday, with linebacker Jamie Collins and quarterback Garrett Gilbert joining the practice squad.

Collins reached terms less than 24 hours after the team’s loss at Green Bay, when the Patriots allowed a season-worst 199 rushing yards. The 32-year-old had been out of football since his contract with the Patriots expired after the 2021 season. According to Bill Belichick, Collins also underwent offseason surgery. Belichick didn’t specify the injury.


Last year, Collins appeared in 10 games and made two starts for the Patriots after signing midseason. He totaled 20 tackles, two pass breakups, an interception and one sack.

Gilbert spent most of the 2021 season on the Patriots’ practice squad until Washington signed him away to make a spot start in December. Gilbert went 21 of 30 for 194 yards in that start. He’s been added while the top two quarterbacks – Jones (high ankle sprain) and Hoyer (concussion) – deal with injuries that are likely to keep them out of Sunday’s game versus Detroit.

Collins wore No. 99 and Gilbert wore No. 19.

SMITH OUT: Tight end Jonnu Smith is reportedly set to miss some time after being diagnosed with a low ankle sprain that is expected to have him week-to-week.

Smith left Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers because of an ankle injury and did not return.

This leaves the Patriots shorthanded at tight end, with Hunter Henry the only other active tight end on the 53-man roster. Meanwhile, Matt Sokol remains an option to promote or elevate from the practice squad.


The Patriots got creative at the tight end position after Smith left Sunday’s game, lining up veteran tackle Marcus Cannon as a jumbo tight end and also using receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey as a blocker.

THORNTON AT PRACTICE: Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton appeared at his first practice since breaking his collarbone in preseason and wore a red non-contact jersey.

Thornton is eligible to come off injured reserve this week after missing the first four games of the season while on IR. Whether the second-round rookie is activated in time for Sunday’s game against Detroit will depend on his recovery and practice performance.

In the preseason, Thornton caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. He broke his collarbone getting tackled in the first half of the Patriots’ 20-10 home win over Carolina. Until then, Thornton had slowly been rising up the depth chart and had been occasionally taking snaps ahead of veteran Kendrick Bourne.

Through four games, the Patriots’ receiver depth chart appears to have DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor entrenched at the top, with Jakobi Meyers having missed the last two games because of a knee injury. Kendrick Bourne and Humphrey have divided snaps as the team’s No. 3 wideout.

Thornton would inject deep speed into the offense. He clocked a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, fastest among all timed receivers.

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