New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones led his team to its first win of the season in Week 3, but it was a different storyline that dominated the headlines coming out of that game against the New York Jets.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner accused Jones of giving him a cheap shot below the belt. It wasn't the first time Jones was being criticized for a dirty play. He twisted the ankle of Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Brian Burns in 2021. Jones also had a questionable hit on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple and a high sliding kick on Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker last season.
Add it all up and that's four separate incidents involving Jones in a little more than two seasons.
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How have these incidents impacted Jones' reputation around the NFL? Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer provided some insight Sunday afternoon on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Pregame Live.
"Well, there's no question that these sorts of things, when they add up, they're taken into account by other teams and players on other teams," Breer explained. "And obviously this isn't the first incident. You look at the Brian Burns incident, the Eli Apple incident. There's a long history now of these sorts of things with Mac Jones. I think both internally with the Patriots and externally with players throughout the league, he's grown on a reputation for these sorts of things."
Breer also noted that Patriots coaches and players have tried to get Jones to stop doing these things, and yet it's still happening.
"And even internally in Foxboro, between the sideline antics and some of these sorts of things, there was an effort late in the year last year to try to get him to knock it off, and it wasn't just from coaches, it was from other players, too," Breer said. "And I think Mac to his credit has been in a much better mindframe over the last seven or eight months since he's been working with Billy O'Brien.
"But the bottom line is this only took three games for this to come back. And so it's certainly something that Mac is going to have to address and he didn't do it publicly. I would think that he probably would address it privately with his teammates because certainly, among the NFL fraternity, there is a feeling that they should all be taking care of each other. And when one of the most protected players on the field, the quarterback, is pulling stuff like this, there needs to be an explanation for it."
Jones has always been a highly competitive and passionate player. He often shows his emotion on the field. But there's a difference between being a high-energy player and going over the line as a dirty player. It's not a difficult line to walk, but Jones isn't going to get the benefit of the doubt from opposing players until he stops doing these things.