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Did Patriots QB Mac Jones intend to hurt Panthers DE Brian Burns?

Does Bill Belichick's explanation that Mac Jones thought Brian Burns had the ball during his "dirty" leg twist hold up to video scrutiny?

A day after the New England Patriots crushed the Carolina Panthers 24-6, nobody really cared that New England’s defense hit its stride or Sam Darnold was playing some of the worst football of his career. Rather, the big debate, both locally and nationally, was whether or not Mac Jones had ill intent toward Panthers defensive end Brian Burns during a loose-ball scrum after a strip-sack.

Mac Jones’ ‘completely dirty’ ankle twist injures Brian Burns

What is not debatable: Jones grabbed Burns’ right foot and twisted hard, causing Carolina’s star to limp off the field with an apparent ankle injury. Panthers players seemed to have a pretty definitive belief of what transpired.

“I thought it was completely dirty. Hopefully, it’s something the league addresses,” Panthers edge defender Haason Reddick said after the game.

Neither Jones nor head coach Bill Belichick were asked about the incident after the game Sunday. But following Reddick’s remarks, it was an unavoidable topic in Foxboro.

Appearing on WEEI radio Monday afternoon, Jones said that believed Burns still in possession of the football, and was just trying to make a tackle.

“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. “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. 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.”

Was Jones just making a tackle on Burns?

Is that plausible? Perhaps. But not exactly likely. This video from WCNC shows Jones, on the ground, looking toward the direction of where the ball was bouncing when he grabbed Burns’ leg and twisted. Jones certainly was not looking up at Burns, which would have been the easiest way to determine if the ball is in the defender’s hands or was still bouncing free.

But even if he had reason to believe it was in Burns’ hands, tackling a player while on the ground by wrenching his leg isn’t exactly kosher. Rather, it’s something out of professional wrestling. What’s the NFL’s view on the matter? We’ll learn later this week when fines become public. But it would be awfully coincidental for this to be accidental. Jones and Burns have an acrimonious history that dates back to high school.

More reaction to Mac Jones

“I don’t know what was in Mac’s head,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Monday. “My job on gameday on the sidelines is to defend our players. What I don’t want to be is the Carolina Panthers who everybody gets to hit out of bounds, and horse-collar and turn their ankles late and nothing ever gets called. I look like a madman on the sidelines, but if that’s it takes, I’m going to sit there and defend our players to the officials the entire game.”

To that, Stanley McClover — who is Burns’ older brother and the Panthers’ hype man — replied on Twitter: “Thank you Coach Rhule!!!! right is right, wrong is wrong if my brother would have done that to him he would be getting crucified this morning smh.”

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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