New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is reportedly telling teammates not to “count him out” from starting Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers. Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3, an injury that typically takes at least six weeks to heal, and did not appear at practice Thursday.

Jones’ injury occurred late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell landed on the quarterback after the pass. The Patriots went on to lose 37-24.

Both Jones and Head Coach Bill Belichick have been coy in practice this week, withholding details about the quarterback’s status. But NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported that Jones is still a part of game planning and is telling teammates not to rule out a Week 4 return.

Though Jones seems intent on fighting through the injury, Giardi later reported that he was not present at practice on Thursday. Quarterback Brian Hoyer is Jones’ backup and is likeliest to start on Sunday.

Given the circumstances around Jones’ injury, it’s difficult to assess how much time he could end up missing. Despite his insistence, Jones seems unlikely to start Week 4, but based on his determination, the injury report also seems unlikely.

The fact remains that the Patriots are significantly weakened for as long as Jones is inactive. This is likely the motivation for Jones to play with the injury, as well as the team’s refusal to provide significant medical updates. The Packers and other teams will prepare differently for the team with the certainty that Jones is absent.

After the team’s game against the Packers, New England will face off against the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears. It’s a relative light slate of games and may give Jones more time to recuperate. If Jones has to miss multiple weeks and Hoyer doesn’t perform well, the Patriots may have to turn to third-string quarterback and 2022 fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe.

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