As he faces scrutiny and potential discipline from the league, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones claimed that he didn’t intend to injure Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple on a low hit in Saturday’s loss.
Jones explained that he was trying to prevent Apple from catching up and blocking receiver Tyquan Thornton during the fourth-quarter play, in which a Bengals defender scooped the ball up and ran toward the end zone after Jones threw an incomplete pass.
“I went down in front of him to kind of get in the way to stop him from slowing down Tyquan, who obviously could make the tackle there,” Mac Jones said in an interview with WEEI’s “Arcand & Mego” on Monday. “I just kind of went down in front of him and tried to stop a fast guy from getting in front of another fast guy. It was a split-second decision. There was a lot that goes into it.
Not sure about this move from Mac Jones. pic.twitter.com/NlXdkknko8
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) December 24, 2022
Jones said that he didn’t realize at the moment that the play had been blown dead because it was an incomplete pass, saying he “was just playing the play.”
“You’re just trying to compete and it’s a physical game, so I’m just trying to help the team win,” Mac Jones said. “I have all the respect for Eli and the Bengals. They played a great game. There’s no hard feelings and definitely no intention to hurt anybody on that play. Nor do I believe that when I’m playing quarterback, I get hit a lot too.
“We’re all out there playing hard. It’s just part of the game.”
The NFL will reportedly look into disciplining Jones for the play, though it would come in the form of a fine and not a suspension.
Apple, who whacked Jones in the head after the play, continued to express frustration over what the Patriots quarterback did after the game.
“Of course I did [notice it]. He tripped me,” Eli Apple said. “I thought it was a dirty play. He’s done that before, I’ve seen it.”
Neither player was flagged for those specific actions on that play. Jones was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled the ball as he fought for the ball at the bottom of the pile.
Mac Jones was fined earlier in December for throwing the ball toward Buffalo Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa during their 24-10 loss against them.