Are the Patriots and Mac Jones at an impasse over how to handle his recovery?


Bill Belichick stonewalled reporters Wednesday when they asked for an expected timeline on Mac Jones’ return. But the surly Patriots head coach wasn’t opaque about all aspects of the injured quarterback’s recovery.

According to Belichick, Jones is healing quickly from a reported severe high-ankle sprain.

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“Saw Mac [Jones] a little while ago. Definitely getting better,” said Belichick Wednesday at the top of his presser. “Probably won't practice today but made a lot of progress here in the last, whatever, 48 hours. So keep plugging away. Take that day-by-day. See how it goes. And that's where we're at for today.”

Mark it down: Belichick said on Sept. 28 that Jones is “definitely getting better.” That quote won’t make Jones look very good if he’s still out next month at this time, as Tom Curran and others have surmised.

Belichick is deliberate when he’s standing at the podium, parsing over every snort and grumble. He didn’t accidentally tell reporters that Jones has “made a lot of progress” since leaving Sunday’s game against the Ravens screaming in pain. Belichick wants that narrative out there.

The Patriots are at a potential impasse in their relationship with Jones, whom they selected No. 15 overall in last year’s NFL Draft. Through three games, Jones appears to be regressing from his rookie season, stuck listening to Matt Patricia and running an offense in obvious transition.

Belichick isn’t putting his first round quarterback in the best position to succeed. Jones probably notices that.

There is an inherent tug-and-pull between teams and players on how to handle injuries. Under most circumstances, teams want players to return as fast as possible, whereas players want to protect their long-term health. The Patriots and Jones could be experiencing that conflict. He’s a 24-year-old quarterback playing on a mediocre team.

It would make sense if he wants to proceed cautiously.

Jones prefers rehab to surgery, reports NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. “Generally speaking, players want to avoid surgery when they can,” he added.

With that in mind, it’s interesting that Jones went to New York this week and received a second opinion on his injured ankle. Jones could just be doing his due-diligence — players have the right to seek a second opinion — or it could indicate there’s a disagreement between the two sides.

The two quarterbacks who played ahead of Jones at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, both underwent what’s called “tightrope surgery” to repair their high-ankle sprains. That’s significant, because it’s believed that tightrope surgery could result in a quicker return to the field. Tagovailoa, for example, returned less than one month after suffering his sprain in December 2019.

Curiously, Adam Schefter floated the idea of surgery when he reported on Jones’ injury Monday. “Patriots QB Mac Jones has what doctors diagnosed as a severe high ankle sprain that would cause many to have surgery, per sources,” tweeted Schefter.

That’s a weird way to frame a report. Somebody seemingly told Schefter that Jones’ particular injury would usually require surgery.

But why?

With a story like this, it’s necessary to read between the lines.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports