The Patriots are the best team in the league at blocking out the noise and focusing on their subject at hand. It was never more apparent than last season’s Super Bowl win over Seattle. Leading up to the game, the team, coaches and Tom Brady were overrun with questions over the ridiculous “Deflate-gate” accusations. Bill Belichick masterfully had the team tune out the noise and the Patriots were ultimately victorious in the desert.
Now the team is preparing for a big playoff game having to answer more questions about issues that have nothing to do with the game at hand on Saturday.
By now everyone knows that Chandler Jones was treated and released at Norwood Hospital on Sunday after showing up at the Foxboro Police Station seeking assistance.
According to reports, Jones showed up incoherent but polite, respectful and asking for assistance. It is now widely reported that the substance that Jones ingested and had a bad reaction to was synthetic marijuana.
The Patriots released a statement earlier this week stating the bare bones of the case in that Jones was treated at the hospital and released on Sunday. He was in attendance on Monday at Gillette Stadium for workouts and meetings.
Today Jones broke his silence by addressing the media after practice. Asked if he felt like he need to apologize to his teammates, he said he needed to “apologize to everyone.”
“I want to start off by saying I made a pretty stupid mistake this weekend,” Jones said. “Right now, my main focus is becoming the best player I can be and helping the team, and we’re focused on Kansas City.”
“I know it sounds competitive and it sounds like I’m repeating myself. That’s what it is right now; becoming the best ‘95’ I can be to help this team out.”
On Thursday, Bill Belichick started off his press conference with a statement saying that his primary concern was the health of Jones moving forward. Asked by ESPN’s Mike Reiss if Jones’ status would change on Saturday due to this incident, Belichick snapped back at Reiss.
“We’ll see on Saturday. I could just Xerox you a copy of the game plan and you can send it over to Kansas City. That might be easier for all of us,” Belichick said.
While most people (especially in New England), are focusing upon the fact that the substance (synthetic marijuana), is not illegal either in Massachusetts or in the NFL, it still showed a terrible lapse in judgement in the Patriots leading sack producer with less than a week before the team’s first playoff game.
Chandler Jones apologized after an off-field incident where he was hospitalized on Sunday. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans image)
Jones is considered one of the team leaders and having one amble into the local police station incoherent and seeking assistance is an added distraction that the team and Belichick doesn’t need right now.
Jones missed the last game of the regular season with a toe injury and was battling an abdominal injury prior to that. After a hot start to the season, where he at one point was leading the league in sacks, Jones cooled off down the stretch in part due to injuries.
This incident is being looked at by the league, and although this synthetic marijuana isn’t illegal by league standards, don’t expect that to remain so. What happens to Jones with the league? Probably nothing at this point. He wasn’t arrested only treated by medical personnel. And since he’s never had a brush with league discipline in the past, he wouldn’t fall under the guidelines for suspension. But the league’s inconsistencies at meting out punishment is now well known.
The bigger picture for Jones who wants to move forward and put this ugly incident behind him is what happens in the future. The talk all season long has been on how the Patriots plan on handling the rookie contracts of Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.
Those three become free agents in 2017 along with Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, Malcolm Butler (restricted), and exclusive rights FAs Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard. The Patriots like to sign their young players up early rather than wait for them to hit free agency where the team could get locked into a bidding war for a player’s services.
Right now, Hightower and Collins will be the priority to get signed and locked up. Jones will have to wait possibly until next season to be looking at a renewal. With Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard already on the roster and two rookies that they drafted in 2015 (Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers), the team has the option of letting him walk.
Both Grissom and Flowers flashed some potential this season, so if the team decides to let Jones play out his contract and he should command some high dollars on the open market, the cupboard wouldn’t necessarily be bare.
But we’re way ahead of that scenario right now and that is what lies immediately ahead and that is the playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones made the first step forward in apologizing for his behavior and lack of judgement, stupid as he put it.
Fine, he and the Patriots would like nothing more than this to fade away into a non-story in the days to come. The best way for Jones to make that happen? Is to play and play well not only on Saturday but in a few more games down the road in the playoffs.
That would be the easiest way for Jones to put this incident in the rear view mirror and set his sights moving forward to a career trending back upward. Putting out a stinker of an effort would only draw more questions and no one needs that right now.
He’s been a positive influence in the locker room, seems to be very popular with his teammates and a huge fan favorite with his quick smile and always interacts with fans young and old during training camp. He’s been an above average player who is teetering on the edge of becoming elite from time-to-time.
He’s seen first-hand how quickly all that can change with one stupid mistake. Luckily no one including himself was hurt on Sunday. How he chooses to handle this and move forward is strictly up to him. Playing at home in Gillette Stadium this weekend is a bonus as no doubt he’ll hear nothing but cheers as he takes the field.
So which ‘95’ takes the field on Saturday? All of New England will be watching.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Patriots Chandler Jones DeflateGate Divisional Playoff game Foxboro police Jones hospitalized Kansas City Chiefs New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers synthetic marijuana