FOXBOROUGH — Mac Jones has not been officially ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Packers, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday his quarterback has “made a lot of progress in the last 48 hours” in his recovery from a high ankle sprain.
Jones didn’t practice and Belichick said the club will evaluate his status on a “day by day” basis.
“We’ll see what it is tomorrow,” Belichick said. “It’s a lot better than it was yesterday.”
Jones was injured on New England’s final offensive play Sunday against the Ravens when his left leg bent awkwardly while he was being tackled by Calais Campbell.
Pressed several times on Jones’s status, what the team’s medical staff has told him, and if the second-year player is going to have a procedure to address the injury, Belichick emphasized multiple times the club is working in a “day-by-day” mode.
Belichick believes a couple of missed sessions wouldn’t affect Jones and the game-planning too much.
“Mac would be able to do it with I think minimal practice if that is what it was,” he said. “So, just take it day-by-day. We’re not really doing anything differently.”
Belichick confirmed that Brian Hoyer would be the starter if Jones can’t play in Green Bay. Rookie Bailey Zappe would be the backup in that scenario.
Belichick expressed confidence in Hoyer, saying the 14-year veteran of multiple organizations “knows the offense better than anyone.” In addition to the Patriots, Hoyer has started games for the Cardinals, Browns, Texans, Bears, 49ers, and Colts.
“I mean, from an overall experience standpoint,” Belichick said. “This year is this year, but Brian has a lot of experience. He’s been in a lot of different systems, seen a lot of football, taken a lot of snaps for us in various capacities. I thought he played well in the preseason. If we need him to go, he’ll be ready to go.”
Hoyer took the first-team reps on Wednesday and noted he did that two weeks ago when Jones missed practice with a stomach illness.
“For me it’s fun, you know, to be able to get out there and take some reps with those guys that, you know, something maybe I haven’t done since training camp,” he said. “So, I enjoy it. Go through and prepare to play and, you know, see how it goes.”
Hoyer said his mind-set doesn’t change just because the number of practice snaps he takes does.
“Whether I get reps or I don’t get reps, you’ve always got to be ready to play,” he said. “As we saw, you know, on Sunday, you’re only one play away … It’s the nature of your job and the business, so I’m always trying to be as prepared as I can, whether I’m taking every rep in practice or I’m taking none. So, it’s just a day-by-day process.”
Hoyer’s last start for the Patriots came in 2019 when Cam Newton was sidelined by COVID. Hoyer struggled in a rare Tuesday night game (again, COVID), going 15 for 24 for 130 yards with an interception and a fumble in a loss in Kansas City. He understands that’s the last memory many have of him, but he’s not concerned about that.
“Look, I’ve played for 14 years, I have a lot of bad memories. I have a lot of good memories, too,” said Hoyer. “One game doesn’t define me. One play doesn’t define me. I’m excited for any opportunity I get to go play. I really could [not] care less about that.”
This opportunity could be a lot different. Instead of being tapped as an emergency starter, Hoyer would have the benefit of a week of practice with the starters.
“If I get to take more practice reps, that obviously is beneficial and hopefully you take that. Coach Belichick always says, ‘Practice execution becomes game-day reality.’ I know Julian [Edelman] likes to use that one a lot. I’ve heard it a million times,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, I hope it translates to that.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur spoke glowingly about Hoyer when meeting with reporters on Wednesday.
“I remember watching a lot of the cut-ups — this was a long time ago — from the ‘14 season and you could make the case and take all his great plays that he made and you thought he was one of the top quarterbacks in the league,” LaFleur said.
Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, who left the Ravens game with a shoulder injury, also did not practice. The Patriots also listed eight players as limited at the lone full-pads session of the week: safeties Kyle Dugger (knee), Adrian Phillips (ribs), and Joshuah Bledsoe (groin); cornerback Jalen Mills (hamstring); linebacker Raekwon McMillan (thumb); defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (back); wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (knee); and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (thumb).