Mac Jones was trying to hurt an opponent. That's the only takeaway one can have after watching replays of him twisting Brian Burns' ankle on Sunday in the New England Patriots' 24-6 victory against the Carolina Panthers.
And any player who intentionally tries to hurt an opponent, especially with something not in the flow of a game, should be punished harshly by the NFL. Except he won't be, according to a report.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media said the NFL will review Jones' ankle twist, but he "faces a possible fine, but nothing more than that." That might not be enough.
The play looks as dirty as anything Ndamukong Suh ever did to get suspended by the NFL. Jones, on the ground after he was sacked and fumbled, reached out and grabbed the ankle of Burns, the Panthers' pass rusher following the play. Then Jones turned the ankle in a malicious way.
As Phil Orban of WSOC TV points out, the NFL Films angle makes it hard to make any case to defend Jones. This is not a football play.
Not to belabor the point, but you won't get a better look at the Mac Jones ankle twist than this one from NFL Films. You can clearly see the grab, the trip, and the roll. It's not great. pic.twitter.com/pBjUnqJ8Wc
— Phil Orban (@philorbanWSOC9) November 8, 2021
You can see it on WSOC's angle too:
Here's another look at the Brian Burns forced fumble (remember that?). It's tough to judge intent but it looks like Mac Jones rolls over while holding on to Burns' ankle. Bottom left of the screen. Video via @SeanWSOC9 pic.twitter.com/BQj6t7IJR8
— Phil Orban (@philorbanWSOC9) November 7, 2021
If you want one more angle, he's a little wider shot from WCNC.
— Nick Carboni (@NickCarboniWCNC) November 8, 2021
Burns was hurt on the play. Panthers edge defender Haason Reddick called it "completely dirty," and he's right.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday to the "Greg Hill Morning Show" (via ESPN's Mike Reiss) that "I think he thought Burns had the ball." It's a dubious excuse, as Panthers coach Matt Rhule seemed to believe.
#Panthers HC Matt Rhule said that Brian Burns suffered an ankle sprain, not sure about the severity yet, waiting on MRI.
On the play: "I have no idea what was in his [Mac Jones] brain."pic.twitter.com/KO7aeZeCgg
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 8, 2021
Jones offered his own explanation:
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 8, 2021
The NFL goes out of its way to protect quarterbacks. There was a roughing-the-passer penalty Sunday night on Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, when he pushed Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the end of a play, that reminded us how the NFL will call ridiculous penalties to make sure nobody touches the quarterback.
This time, a quarterback who lost a fumble on a sack grabbed an ankle and ended up twisting it at the end. That's worse that just pushing a quarterback during a play. Letting a quarterback get away with that with a slap on the wrist would be hypocritical.