New England Patriots star Mac Jones defended himself against accusations he is a dirty player after he took out Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple with a low hit.
The second-year quarterback told reporters Wednesday "the biggest thing for me is focusing on being the best teammate I can be, and earning the respect of the people in this building and the people I care about":
"Obviously, I have respect for everybody around the league. It takes a lot to get to this league. There's really good players out there, and we're all playing hard and trying to win. At the end of the day, you have to keep that in mind. It's a game and you want to just have fun, enjoy it and compete against each other. That's something that I've always done and I know my teammates appreciate that about me."
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Monday the NFL intended to fine Jones $11,139 for the hit on Apple.
Following New England's 22-18 loss to the Bengals, Jones said he took Apple out so that teammate Tyquan Thornton would have a clearer path to chase down Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt. Pratt had picked up the ball on an incomplete pass and returned it the other way in the event the officials ruled it a fumble on review.
Jones' hit led others to apply close scrutiny to other instances of supposed dirty plays, most notably his cleat to the groin of Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker on a slide and his grabbing of Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns' ankle to prevent him from recovering a fumble.
While Jones may "respect" his peers, critics might contend actions speak louder than words.