FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — If Mac Jones can’t play Sunday for the Patriots visit to Green Bay, veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer will start in his place.
But Bill Belichick is still leaving open the possibility that his second-year quarterback will be ready to go.
That’s about as much as the Patriots coach was wiling to share about the status of the left ankle injury that’s left Jones in danger of missing the first start of his career.
“Definitely getting better,” Belichick said of Jones. “Made a lot of progress here in the last 48 hours. So keep plugging away and taking it day by day and see how it goes.”
Jones did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and Belichick also declined to confirm whether Jones’ injury was a high ankle sprain.
“What do I look like, a doctor? An orthopedic surgeon? Like, I don’t know. Talk to the medical experts,” he said.
What have those experts conveyed?
“Day by day,” Belichick said “They’ll evaluate him. What difference does it make to me? You think I’m going to read the MRI? That’s not my job.”
Hoyer has made starts for seven NFL teams during his 14-year career, but has lost his past 11 and amassed a record of just 16-23. The 2020 start he made for New England in its loss at Kansas City was his lone start with the Patriots. He stepped in that day for Cam Newton, who was out with COVID-19.
“I’ve played for 14 years, I have a lot of bad memories. I have a lot of good memories, too,” Hoyer said. “One game doesn’t define me. One play doesn’t define me. I’m excited for any opportunity I get a chance to go play. So, I really could care less about that.”
Belichick said his confidence in the 36-year-old’s ability to lead the offense is high.
“He knows it better than anybody from an overall experience standpoint,” Belichick said. “This year is this year. But Brian’s had a lot of experience. Been in a lot of different systems. Seen a lot of football. Taken a lot of snaps for us in various capacities. Played well in the preseason. If we need him to go, he’ll be ready to go.”
Hoyer did acknowledge that there was a difference this time around, with him starting the practice week taking reps with the first team and with a higher probability he’ll be playing Sunday. He said he also took first-team reps last week when Jones missed practice with an illness.
“It’s obviously more beneficial than finding out on Saturday morning that Cam has COVID and I’m thinking to myself, ‘I have COVID, I was around him all day.’ That was a unique year and a unique situation,” Hoyer said.
“For me, if I get to take more practice reps, then obviously it’s more beneficial. Coach Belichick always says, ‘Practice execution becomes game day reality.’”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said they’ll do what’s necessary to prepare to face either Jones or Hoyer. His brother, Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, was on the staff in Cleveland in 2014 when Hoyer started 13 games this season.
Matt LaFleur said he recalls watching clips of Hoyer from that season and “you thought he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
“You’ve just got to do the best job you can. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Brian Hoyer is a guy I’ve got a lot of respect for. … He’s been doing it for a really long time, and he’s going to know their system inside and out. That always presents some challenges in terms of when you have a veteran before a more inexperienced player, although I don’t want to take anything away from Mac. Mac’s been unbelievable honestly, having a Pro Bowl year and doing some great things this year as well.
“Whoever’s out there, you’ve just got to adjust and adapt.”
Belichick said he isn’t concerned about Jones’ potential absence having an emotional impact on the locker room.
“Brian will be ready to go if he has to be ready to go. I think we all know that,” he said. “So I don’t really worry about that.”
NOTES: Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy also sat out Wednesday’s practice with a shoulder injury he sustained in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. He has missed just four starts in his six seasons with the Patriots.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
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