FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — 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 willing to share about the status of the left leg 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 was not present during the portion of practice open to reporters on Wednesday. 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.”
If the job of running the Patriots offense does fall to Hoyer, though, Belichick said his confidence in the 36-year-old’s ability to lead the offense is high.
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.
“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.”
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.”
Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press. AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.