Injury to Mac Jones puts another stain on this Patriots season | Opinion




FOXBORO, Mass. - It's 4:20 p.m. and the Patriots locker room is quiet. While players are getting dressed, there are multiple Patriots staff members standing in front of the team's training room.

Behind two gray doors, there's a blue curtain. That's all you can see. It's more than likely that behind that curtain Mac Jones is being evaluated for a leg injury that he suffered on his final pass attempt in the Patriots 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. This marks the second injury Jones has suffered in the team's first three games.

Down by 11, with 2:09 left, Jones dropped back and threw a pass that was intercepted by Marcus Peters. That's when Calais Campbell, all 6-foot-8, 307 pounds, landed on Jones' left ankle.

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New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) is helped off the field after suffering a leg injury with less than two minutes to play in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) is helped off the field after suffering a leg injury with less than two minutes to play in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept.  

The Patriots quarterback was immediately in pain. He hopped off the field on his right foot as he couldn't put any weight on that left leg. Jones was met on the sideline by a trainer. Then he was helped down the stairs by Patriots assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist Michael Akinbola. Photos show Jones screaming in pain as he was brought into the stadium for evaluation.

The Patriots announced he had a leg injury and wouldn't speak to the media following the game. According to the NFL Network, X-rays on Jones' ankle were negative, but it's believed that the quarterback suffered a high-ankle sprain. Jones will undergo an MRI on Monday and if the injury is confirmed, he could possibly head to the injured reserve. That would put veteran Brian Hoyer in line to start against Green Bay next weekend and beyond. The Patriots then have games against Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago.

Offensive linemen upset

The reaction from offensive players is what you'd expect. The offensive linemen who were on the field for that final play were upset.

Patriots QB Mac Jones limps off the field as he is helped by medical staff and taken directly to the sidelines after being injured late in the 4th quarter.
Patriots QB Mac Jones limps off the field as he is helped by medical staff and taken directly to the sidelines after being injured late in the 4th quarter.  

"Felt like I didn't do good enough," said Patriots left guard Cole Strange.

"He's our quarterback. We're supposed to protect him," added right tackle Isaiah Wynn.

"It's real heartbreaking," said right guard Michael Onwenu. "You really take it personal because we've got to do our job. Someone has to block for him and protect him."

The evolution of the Patriots offense has been frustrating to start this season. The Pats showed flashes in Sunday's loss, but it wasn't good enough to beat another team with a talented offense. To make it all worse, Jones, who already dealt with a back injury due to a hit in Miami, is hurt again.

Patriots offense shows signs of life, but self-destructed

There were moments where it looked like the Patriots turned a corner. A small glimpse of hope that reminded us of the Patriots past offense. Back when a quarterback you might be tired of hearing about (Tom Brady) made it so everything was going to be alright.

Jones opened up Sunday's game with a 31-yard deep pass to DeVante Parker. After a slow start from the veteran receiver, Parker finally looked the part of a dangerous deep threat. Parker caught five passes that all went over 20 yards - 31, 40, 36, 25 and 24 yards. His 25-yard catch had a completion probability of just 7.4% according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Parker finished with five catches for 156 yards. Jones finished with a career-high 321 passing yards. Even the run game had some great moments, rushing for 145 yards, averaging 145 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

"(Jones) was playing his tail off and doing everything he could to help us win," said center David Andrews. "That's what you want out of your guys."

Patriots Qb Mac Jones is pressured by Ravens Defensive tackle #93 Calais Campbell in the 2nd half.
Patriots Qb Mac Jones is pressured by Ravens Defensive tackle #93 Calais Campbell in the 2nd half.  

However, Jones was intercepted twice targeting Parker. Both turnovers were costly. The first came at 4:09 of the third just two plays after the Ravens retook a 28-20 lead. The next, at 9:12 of the fourth, followed a defensive turnover (Jonathan Jones fumble).

The next series, with the Pats down 31-26, Jones hit Nelson Agholor for a 20-yard gain, but the receiver fumbled with 5:45 left in the game. For a team with obvious talent on paper, the Patriots hurt themselves on Sunday.

"Take care of the football. That's the No. 1 thing, honestly," said tight end Hunter Henry. "You have four turnovers against a good football team, you're kind of setting yourself up to fail. Just got to take care of the football. We're moving the ball, executing in a lot of ways. We have to take care of the football and put an emphasis on it."

"It is frustrating to lose and it is frustrating that kind of game because we felt like we had control," added receiver Kendrick Bourne. "In these last three games, we had control of the game, but it's big plays we're giving up. It's game changing plays. That's why I would say it's frustrating."

Mac Jones not seen in locker room after game

Back in the Patriots locker room, there's no sign of the starting quarterback.

After the locker room opened up at 4:20 p.m., a Patriots team official announced at 4:55 p.m. that Jones was still being treated and evaluated. The team said he would talk to the media on Monday.

Two minutes later, at 4:57 p.m., Chris Mattes, Patriots director of player operations and friend of the quarterback, walks out of the trainer's room and heads to Jones' locker. There he picks up a black pair of sneakers and a black pair of sandals before heading back to those gray double doors of the trainers room.

That's the only sign that Jones is still in the building.

By then, multiple players were sending well wishes to Jones.

"I don't know exactly what it is but anytime you see a guy down or feeling bad, he's my guy so I definitely feel bad," said Henry.

Patriots QB Mac Jones twist to get away from Raven defender Odafe Oweh in the fourth quarter.
Patriots QB Mac Jones twist to get away from Raven defender Odafe Oweh in the fourth quarter.  

"Obviously, you never want to see your quarterback hurt. He is one of my close friends. That makes it sting a little bit more," said running back Damien Harris. "But Mac's a tough player. It is what it is. He's a tough player. I don't know what's going on, but I know whatever it is, he's going to attack it and do his best to get out there as soon as he can. Just got to rally around him, be there for and support him and just keep moving forward."

The Patriots are a team that's rebuilding. Two years after Brady left, they were back in the playoffs behind a promising rookie quarterback. A year later, Jones has been hurt twice due to hits he took in Week 1 and Week 3 to start the 2022 season. The offense, with new play caller Matt Patricia, looks worse.

"You don't want to see anyone get hurt so any of our guys walk off the field, it's not a good sign. But Mac is a dog," said tight end Jonnu Smith. "He's a fighter. I'm sure we'll be headed in the right direction."

It's 5:03 p.m. and the locker room closes to the media with no sign of their starting quarterback and more questions than answers about the future of this Patriots franchise.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Mac Jones' leg injury vs. Ravens puts another stain on Patriots season

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