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Patriots QB Mac Jones Responds To Panthers Calling Him Dirty: 'I Didn't Really Know What Was Going On'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- It only took nine weeks for Mac Jones to find himself at the center of a little controversy.

The rookie QB drew the ire of some Panthers players for grabbing the ankle of linebacker Brian Burns after Burns had sacked Jones and jarred the ball free from the QB's grasp. Burns leapt to try to escape Jones' grasp, but Jones didn't let go. Burns ended up with a twisted ankle. Though he returned to the game on Carolina's next defensive drive, Hasson Reddick said that Jones' grab was "completely dirty."

On Monday afternoon, Jones got the chance to state his case, and he said he thought Burns had the football and thus tried to tackle him.

"After I got hit pretty hard, I didn't really know exactly what was going on. I thought he had the ball and it was my job to try and make the tackle. That was pretty much it," Jones said on Merloni & Fauria on WEEI. "And you know, obviously when you get up and you see the ball is actually down the field a little bit more ... it was just a bang-bang play and I didn't mean to hurt anybody or anything like that. I was just trying to tackle him and make the play. Because you know, I didn't really know what was going on."

Earlier Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that from his view, Jones thought that Burns had possession of the football and thus did what he could to bring him down. That theory lost some luster when an NFL Films angle showed Jones likely seeing that Burns didn't have the football.

Nevertheless, Jones claimed that he believed Burns had recovered the loose ball.

"I just thought that's what happened," Jones said. "I had to make the tackle. So I did what I did in real time, and it is what it is."

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that he couldn't determine what Jones' intent was on the play.

"I love Mac Jones. Tremendous competitor. I have no idea what was in his brain, and I'm not here to talk about that," Rhule said. "But I am here to defend our guys. Obviously we can't get guys hurt on something after the play."

When asked about the potential of facing a fine for the play, Jones expressed hope that the NFL accepts his claim.

"Hopefully they see it how I saw it in the game and they don't look too much more into it. Because that's what it was," Jones said.

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