New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • After missing three games due to a high ankle sprain, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones seems to be turning a corner. On Thursday, ESPN’s Mike Reiss reporting that Jones “expects to be available” for the team’s Monday Night matchup with the Chicago Bears. Reiss did add that Jones has “a final hurdle to be cleared in practice” before he can return to the field, although he didn’t specify what that hurdle is.

    Fast forward 24 hours, and NFL Network’s Mike Giardi has added some clarity as to what that hurdle might be. Appearing on the network Friday afternoon, Giardi said, “My understanding of the situation this week hasn’t changed since the beginning of the week. Mac Jones has yet to be medically cleared by the team’s doctors and the training staff. What he has to do to get on the field is have that thing passed. That means being able to show the team during practice and workouts that he can protect himself both inside and outside the pocket.”

  • “Until he does that, there is no conversation – Bailey Zappe is still the quarterback. That’s why Bill Belichick doesn’t want to go there,” Giardi continues. “But if he does [clear], my understanding is that Mac Jones in fact – if he is cleared, would be the starting quarterback against the Bears.”

    The reference to Belichick ‘not wanting to go there’ is about how he has handled questions in regards to the quarterback situation this week. “We’re just taking it day-by-day,” he said Friday morning when asked if the team has decided on a starter for Monday night. “We’ll see how it goes.” Those answers are in line with the way he’s answered just about every question on the subject the last few weeks.

    Medically clearing a player is an internal process, and the team is under no obligation to report any updates. So short of an external report, we may not know if Mac Jones is cleared to play until close to kickoff.

  • (Click here to subscribe to Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

  • Jones being medically cleared isn’t the final step in his return to play process. Once the coaching staff gets the thumbs up from the doctors, it will be up to them to decide if any limitations related to the injury – if there are any – are enough to warrant continuing to hold him out. Earlier this week PFF’s Doug Kyed reported that Jones is “currently at 85-to-90 percent,” so it sounds like he should be good in that regard.

    Giardi is the second reporter to indicate Jones will return as the starter once cleared by both the medical staff and coaches, despite Zappe’ 2-0 record over the last two weeks. Jeff Howe of the Athletic had a similar report on Thursday.

    The first realistic sign Jones is good to go – short of any external reports – will be whether or not the team elevates practice squad quarterback Garrett Gilbert for the game. That move would have to be made by Sunday afternoon. If Gilbert isn’t elevated, that would be a sign that the team no longer needs him dressed as the gameday backup, which would be the case if Jones is ready to go.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.