As the Patriots prepare for their last game of the season against a very motivated Buffalo Bills team, a report first revealed by ESPN’s Field Yates shocked the New England media and fans on Friday.
Rookie cornerback Jack Jones and punter Jake Bailey were both moved from the injured reserve list to the reserve/suspended list, meaning they were suspended by the team and not the league. If that wasn’t shocking enough, when the detailed report was released, it showed both players had been suspended on December 31st, nearly a week before the news broke to the public.
The news was shocking and received with a lot of confusion because Jake Bailey and Jack Jones had been placed on injured reserve during the season. The assumption with Bailey, at least, was the punter would be returning at some point this season, as he was placed on IR for a back injury on November 19th. That left plenty of time to return before the end of the season.
He was just designated to make his return on December 21st and had participated in a few practices over the last few weeks in a limited capacity. But despite the belief that Bailey would return to the field shortly, Bill Belichick shared that he would be placed back on IR, ending his 2022 season.
That then raised questions about the future of Bailey with the Patriots, particularly since he had signed a contract extension before the start of the regular season. Because he had not performed nearly as well as he had in the past, and certainly not how the Patriots were hoping for, they could easily move on from the punter this offseason.
Not long after the original news broke, more details emerged, providing the reasoning behind both players’ suspensions.
Because Bailey appeared on track to return, media members were confused when Belichick shut down the idea of him punting again this season. When the details were finally revealed, it was said that Bailey and the Patriots disagreed on his readiness to return, thus resulting in the team’s suspension. However, what transpired to lead to the suspension remains unclear.
Regarding the impact of the punishment, Mike Reiss of ESPN noted the most significant part involves Bailey’s contract, particularly the guaranteed money of his new contract.
"“This puts two game checks in jeopardy for both players and could threaten Bailey’s guaranteed money from a lucrative four-year, $13.5 million extension he signed in August.When a player is placed on the reserve/suspended list, it voids future guarantees, but a player can challenge that in arbitration.”"
UPDATE as of January 7th:
Bailey’s agent released a statement on Saturday morning, revealing they were shocked about the suspension and that they will be filing a grievance shortly.
Jack Jones had a similar path as he, too, suffered an injury that forced his placement on injured reserve.
In week 14, when the Patriots were in Glendale to face the Cardinals, Jones suffered an apparent knee injury on the game’s opening drive. When questioned about the severity, he downplayed the injury, proclaiming it wasn’t serious. He was back practicing with the team the following week, but he wound up on IR on December 31st, ending his breakout rookie season early.
The details surrounding his suspension were just as vague as Bailey’s. The report stated that the team had fined Jones for missing rehabilitation appointments at some point to deal with his knee injury. With further clarification remaining sparse, Jones’ agent released a statement on the matter within the hour of his client’s suspension news.
As the Patriots desperately need a reliable punter, the news of Bailey’s suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time. Where the situation goes from here will be an intriguing storyline heading into the offseason. Still, hopefully, a resolution can be made and Bailey can return to his top-tier performance from years past.
Because Jones is in his first season in the NFL, if the situation is more extensive than what has been shared publicly, Belichick could decide to move on from him as soon as possible. Players on rookie contracts are relatively easy to trade, and Belichick’s history has proven he will do so if he pleases.
However, the hope here also is that the situation can be resolved mainly due to Jones’ impressive performance this season. In 13 games, he totaled 30 tackles, six passes defended, a forced fumble and recovery, two interceptions, and a pick-six.