Mac Jones has found himself in some more drama this week after what some have called a dirty play during the Patriots’ latest matchup against the Bengals.
The play in question occurred on what was initially believed to be a fumble by the quarterback. Instead, the ball was recovered by Bengals’ linebacker Germaine Pratt, who swiftly began running down the sideline, nearing the endzone. The Patriots’ offense was in hot pursuit, with Tyquan Thornton and Jones nearest to Pratt.
Once Jones got to about the 30-yard line, he stepped to the left and dove to the ground in front of Eli Apple, resulting in the cornerback being taken down at the knees. After the conclusion of the return, officials ruled the pass incomplete, thus overturning the subsequent fumble recovery and return.
Many felt Jones’ actions, including Apple himself, was dirty and intentional. When speaking to the media after the game about the incident, Apple said, “He tripped me. I thought it was a dirty play. He’s done that before. I’ve seen it.”
This sparked even more outrage online, including Dov Kleiman posting a compilation video of what he deemed to show Jones as a dirty player since joining the NFL. The video has been viewed over 23 million times, with several media members and NFL players (current and former) sharing their thoughts on Jones, most of which have given him the “dirty player” label.
Whether or not the discussion online prompted it, the NFL decided to investigate the incident to determine if a fine or suspension would be implemented. As a result, the league announced Monday that they would be fining Jones $11,139 for the hit, as a hit below the knees during the ensuing play was a violation of the rules.
Because the accusation has picked up steam over the last few days, Matthew Slater was asked for his thoughts on the current narrative surrounding Jones. During his media availability on Tuesday, the veteran special teams captain defended the quarterback, shutting down the new characterization of him since Saturday’s game.
"“Yeah, you know. Look, I don’t see it as such in terms of him being a dirty player. That’s not the person I know, that’s not the young man that I’ve gotten a chance to spend time around the last couple of years. I understand that narratives are made up of different people’s opinions, different people’s experiences with a person or with an organization or whatever it may be. You can’t control those narratives. People are going to interpret events the way they interpret them, and, you know, I think we can’t concern ourselves too much with that because whatever we say will not change what people think or say about any particular player on this team. That’s our quarterback, I have a lot of respect for him, I support him, I think he tries to play the game the right way. But that’s just one man’s opinion, that’s Matthew Slater’s opinion. So, as far as how everyone else feels about it, I can’t really speak to that – and I would encourage Mac to be confident in who he is.”"