FOXBOROUGH — Mac Jones made a surprise appearance at practice Friday, but the Patriots later ruled their starting quarterback out of Sunday’s game against the Packers in Green Bay.
Brian Hoyer will get the nod for the Patriots, exactly six years after his last win as an NFL starter, when he led the Bears over the Lions.
All week, his coaches and teammates have expressed a lot of confidence in Hoyer, who took the first-team reps in practice.
“He’s played in this league a long time,” said tight end Hunter Henry. “You don’t stick around this league for a long time unless you’re a great player.
“He’s a smart football player. He’s a guy that we love having in the locker room. He’s a great guy, definitely, to have on this team.”
Jones, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in the late stages of last Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, was not at practice Wednesday and Thursday, but did make a cameo at the final session of the week. He was officially classified as a nonparticipant all three days.
Jones’s left ankle was heavily taped Friday, and he didn’t move around much. He did do some light stationary throwing during the window in which reporters were allowed to observe.
Asked before practice about Jones’s status, coach Bill Belichick said, “Ultimately, that will be a decision made by the medical people, in consultation with Mac, of course. Like we would do with any player; he’s no different than any other player. I mean, he is, but I’m just saying the process is the same.
“There’s a medical evaluation, you talk to the player, and as a coach you, at whatever point, get the information that you get and you make a decision — if there’s a decision to be made. If there’s no decision to be made medically, then I’m out of it.
“But if there’s a decision to be made — ‘hey, the player’s at X percent, he can do this; the player feels like he can do this, he’s ready to play’ — then I’ll make a decision: Do I want this player at X percent, or somebody else at, let’s call it 100 percent.”
On Wednesday, Belichick repeatedly said Jones’s status would be determined on a “day-by-day” basis.
“Is that what I said?” Belichick said with a smile Friday. “Did I break a record on that? I wasn’t trying to do that.’’
The coach said the reasoning for not putting a timetable on injuries is that no two are alike and players respond differently. An injury that might take some players days to recover from could take another player weeks or months.
Now, a decision has been made.
Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, who will back up Hoyer, said his mind-set and preparation don’t change regardless of where he is on the depth chart.
“I’m just attacking practice like I have these past three weeks and just trying to get better every day,” Zappe said, noting that he has done his “fair share” of picking the brains of Jones, Hoyer, Belichick, and assistants Joe Judge and Matt Patricia since arriving in town. “I’m very fortunate to have all those guys around and get great feedback from them and continue to learn.”
Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy (shoulder) and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (thumb) also missed practice and were ruled out.
Guy has been exceptionally durable during his Patriots tenure, missing just two games in six seasons.
Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. said the Patriots lose not only production but leadership with Guy not available.
“He does a great, great job seeing things that sometimes other guys can’t see,” said Wise. “He’s an experienced defensive tackle, so he plays a game a certain way and then comes to the sideline and tells us kind of like what he’s hearing, what he’s seeing. We’re going to miss it out there, but definitely rooting for his recovery.”
Veteran offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and rookie defensive lineman Jeremiah Pharms Jr. are candidates to be called up from the practice squad.
The Patriots listed seven players as limited at practice and questionable for the game: safeties Kyle Dugger (knee), Adrian Phillips (ribs), and Joshuah Bledsoe (groin); cornerback Jalen Mills (hamstring); linebacker Raekwon McMillan (thumb); defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (back); and receiver Jakobi Meyers (knee).
Since 2008, the Patriots (164-40-0, .719) and Packers (147-79-2, .649) have the two highest winning percentages in the NFL … The all-time series is tied at 6-6 … New England ties on the Green Bay roster include running back A.J. Dillon, linebacker Isaiah McDuffie (Boston College), and tight end Tyler Davis (UConn) … The Packers are 11-1 in October under coach Matt LaFleur … Green Bay running back Aaron Jones has 33 touchdowns (25 rushing, 8 receiving) in 35 career games at Lambeau Field.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.