FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — For the third straight week, who will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback is an open question.
Mac Jones returned to the practice field Wednesday, but was listed as a limited participant as he continues to recover from the ankle injury that has sidelined him each of the past two games. He hasn’t been a full participant in a workout since then.
He had more zip on his passes during the limited portion of practice open to reporters Wednesday, but still didn’t look to have full mobility just four days out from New England’s road matchup with Cleveland (2-3).
Bailey Zappe was solid in his first career start in last week’s win over the Detroit Lions, completing 17 of 21 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown and an interception. But when asked prior to Wednesday’s workout if Jones would return as the starter this week, coach Bill Belichick said it was too early to tell.
“We’ll see where he is today. I don’t know,” Belichick said.
While that process plays out, Zappe said his approach to the week remains unchanged.
“I’m preparing to do what my coaches tell me I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “Right now, that’s to take practice reps and do what I can do to help the team.”
Belichick was clear that Zappe’s recent performance wouldn’t factor into the decision of whether Jones is back under center against the Browns.
“They’re totally independent,” Belichick said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
Still, it is fair to question whether the coaching staff would be willing to risk Jones reinjuring his ankle against a Cleveland defense that has given up 53 points in its past two games.
Belichick sees a Browns team that has been competitive with all three losses coming by three or fewer points.
“Defensively it’s really one word — fast. Everybody’s fast,” Belichick said. “Linebackers are fast. Secondary’s fast. D-line’s fast. (Myles) Garrett and (Jadeveon) Clowney are as good a bookends as there are. Lot of speed inside. Wherever’s there’s space, it doesn’t stay space for very long.”
One thing Patriots center David Andrews is sure of is that Jones is eager to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“He’s a competitor,” Andrews said. “There’s a lot of them we have in the locker room. I’ve been fortunate not to be too banged up in my career, but when you’re not playing it’s hard and you want to do everything you can to get back out there. For so many reasons.
“I know he’s feeling that obviously. … We just don’t do this — come out here in full pad practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. You want to play. That’s what you want to do. … You know he’s doing everything he can to get back out there.”
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