Mac Jones' explanation about why he grabbed Brian Burns' ankle in last weekend's Patriots-Panthers game makes sense.
When Jones lost the ball, he was trying to do everything in his power to help the team retrieve it. It’s not like he was trying to hurt Burns, who’s a 245-pound defensive end. Unfortunately Burns twisted his ankle, but he was able to come back and play.
Jones didn't try to intentionally hurt Burns with a cut block or a crack-back block. It seemed somewhat instinctual -- "I just got sacked, I lost the ball, I don’t know where it is, maybe Burns has it " -- and he was trying to grab Burns' ankle potentially to make a tackle.
So, I understand it. You don’t have a great viewpoint when you’re flattened on your face and all you know is that the ball came out. You just try to get the ball back because that’s your lifeblood. That’s just football.
I thought Burns' comments Wednesday about wishing his fellow defensive ends "happy hunting" on Jones were stupid, to be honest. What are you trying to do? Rally all the defensive ends who play Mac Jones because he grabbed your ankle and tell them, “Go get him!"?
Jones openly admitted he didn’t know where the ball was and thought Burns may have it. It’s a simple mistake. Burns and the Panthers need to focus more on getting their team right rather than worry about a play from last weekend -- especially because Burns thankfully wasn't hurt and was able to come back out and play.
There’s no place for anybody who tries to intentionally hurt somebody, but I don’t think Mac Jones -- seeing the type of person he is, his character and his background -- is a guy who tries to intentionally hurt a defensive lineman to take him out of the game.
So, for Burns to make a bigger deal of it, and for him to still be talking about it on a Wednesday instead of focusing on his upcoming opponent, is ridiculous. He’s trying to put out a rallying cry for other opponents to get after Jones because Jones made a mistake. It just seems silly to me.
It’s Wednesday. The game was on Sunday. You lost. Thankfully you weren’t seriously injured on that play. For Burns to still be talking about it while Carolina is already on to the next opponent, and for him to put out a memo to all the defensive ends in the league who play a rookie quarterback like Mac Jones, of all players -- that's what you want to put out there? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
As far as retribution, I don't think Burns' comments will have the Patriots' offensive line on high alert any more than they normally are in protecting Jones. You can see those guys have Mac’s back. When the Chargers' Jerry Tillery hit Jones after the whistle in Week 8, you saw every offensive lineman run into the melee to protect Mac.
Offensive linemen take great pride in protecting their quarterback and Jones has built a strong relationship with those guys, so I don't think that will be an issue going forward.
Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.