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Is Mac Jones a Dirty Football Player?



New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones dominated headlines following his team’s first victory of the year. But it wasn’t due to Jones throwing for 201 yards, or tossing his longest touchdown pass of the season, or not throwing throwing any interceptions. Instead, the talk was about whether or not the Patriots captain is a dirty football player.

New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, who found himself on the losing end of Sunday’s game, made postgame comments that did not paint Mac Jones in a favorable light. Gardner claimed that following a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter, Jones hit him in his “private part” after getting up. The explanation was given as a defense for why Gardner tossed Jones down following their interaction.

For his part, Gardner doubled down on his claim Monday. He posted a video to Twitter/X with the caption:

Posting this so I don’t get fined lol
– @iamSauceGardner

The blurry video did not clearly show any infraction by Mac Jones. It was a way for Sauce Gardner to beat the NFL Rules Compliance Department to making any financial decisions about his behavior on the play. Neither Jones nor Gardner were penalized on the play.

Over the course of the day there were additional clips shown and broken down. Dianna Russini of The Athletic posted a slow-motion video of the exchange. This was eventually analyzed by legions of people online as though it was the Zapruder film.

Despite it being unusual for a quarterback to develop a reputation for being a dirty player, this is not the first accusation that has been levied against Mac Jones. In only his third NFL season, this is at least his fourth time his play has come under serious scrutiny.

Nov. 7, 2021 – Brian Burns Incident

The first “dirty play” attributed to Mac Jones occurred in game between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers during his rookie season. After being stripped of the ball as he was sacked by Brian Burns, Jones grabbed Burns by the ankle. It appeared Jones, who was on the ground, was attempting to prevent Burns from getting to the fumbled football. However, Jones himself claimed that after being hit hard he thought Burns had the ball. As a result, Jones said he was simply trying to tackle Burns on the play.

Regardless of why Mac Jones did what he did to Brian Burns, Carolina’s defensive end took exception. He felt the play, which resulted in an aggrevated ankle, was dirty.

“Watching the replay and watching all the angles and everything, I think it’s some bull,” Burns said afterwards. “Even if you thought I had the ball, it’s not legal to trip somebody or leg sweep somebody, let alone twist (an) ankle. It’s not legal to do that.” Burns would go on to wish other NFL defensive ends “happy hunting season” on Mac Jones.

Jones was neither penalized on the play, nor fined/reprimanded by the NFL.

Oct. 24, 2022 – Jaquan Brisker Incident

In last season’s Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and Chicago Bears, Mac Jones made Jaquan Brisker the second “victim” of his suspect play. This time Jones was sliding down on a run, feet first. However, as Jones was sliding, his left leg was raised in the air. Since Jones was giving himself up on the play, Brisker was not prepared to see a foot quickly approaching his midsection. He attempted to leap over Jones at the last second, but Jones’ left foot caught Brisker in the privates.

“D-lineman don’t like this,” Peyton Manning said during the televised ManningCast of the game. “You can’t hit the quarterback, but yet he can kick you right in the jewels. That’s why d-lineman don’t like quarterbacks.”

Although Jaquan Brisker happens to play safety, not defensive line, Manning’s point remains. For that matter, nobody likes to be kicked in the “jewels.” Obviously this play brought back discussion of the Brian Burns situation from the previous season.

Jones was neither penalized on the play, nor fined/reprimanded by the NFL.

Dec. 24, 2022 – Eli Apple Incident

In last year’s Christmas Eve battle between the Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals yet another questionable Mac Jones play took place. After the Bengals had recovered a fumble (later deemed an incomplete pass) players on both teams were chasing Cincinnati’s Jermaine Pratt downfield. While Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton began gaining ground on Pratt, Jones dove away from the man with the ball to take out his nearest blocker, Eli Apple.

“I thought it was a dirty play,” said Apple. “He’s done that before. I’ve seen it.”

Jones defended his move saying it was a split-second decision. He said he was merely trying to take one fast player out of the way (Apple) so another fast guy (Thornton) could try and catch Jermaine Pratt.

Now there were multiple past infractions being brought up following the play, with both the Burns and Brisker incidents resurfacing.

The third time was not the charm for Mac Jones. He was not penalized on the play, but was fined $13,367 for the hit on Apple. Jones was also fined $10,609 for a separate incident in the game, in which he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following late Patriots fumble.

Sep. 24, 2023 – Sauce Gardner Incident

The situation with Gardner is detailed above. Mac Jones was asked about what happened on Monday, while a guest on WEEI’s Jones & Mego with Arcand show.

“Sauce is one of the best corners in the NFL. I have a lot of respect for him, so nothing was intentional.” When pressed further to find out if perhaps something unintentional had happened, Jones responded, “It’s football, so just trying to get up and go back to the huddle.” He avoided all other inquiries on the matter.

On the play in question, the Patriots were facing a fourth and one on the Jets 46-yard line. Jones took the snap straight ahead on a quarterback sneak. He was initially hit in the face by Jets safety Jordan Whitehead. Jones was then slammed to the ground by New York linebacker C.J. Moseley. Finally, after getting up he was shoved down by Sauce Gardner following the alleged incident.

There were no flags thrown on any of the four players involved with questionable actions on the play, three of whom happened to play for the New York Jets. The NFL is reportedly investigating the claim made against Mac Jones. If Ted Wells is asked to write up another report, this time breaking down Mac Jones behavior, it would be concluded that it was “more probable than not” that the New England Patriots quarterback hit Sauce Gardner below the belt.

As the old saying goes, perception is reality. At this point, the perception around the NFL is that Mac Jones is a dirty football player. Now each time there is a new incident, all four of the above-mentioned examples will be summoned. Regardless of whether or not Mac Jones is a dirty player football player, he will certainly no longer receive the benefit of the doubt.

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