New England’s second round of joint practices will be chock full of Patriots connections:
All the Patriots assistants who followed him to Las Vegas!
Chandler Jones! (And Brandon Bolden. And Duron Harmon. And Jakob Johnson. Etc., etc., etc.)
Reporters will not be starved for storylines when the Patriots visit the Raiders next week. The same can’t be said about their first joint practice opponent, the Carolina Panthers.
There aren’t many common threads linking the Patriots and Panthers, who will practice on the fields outside Gillette Stadium this Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Friday night’s preseason game.
Carolina has New England alums Ryan Izzo, Duke Dawson and Frank Herron on its roster. Bill Belichick tried to sign Panthers wideout Robbie Anderson back in 2020. The Patriots made Sam Darnold see ghosts that one time. There’s not a lot of meat on that bone.
But Patriots-Panthers practices will feature one compelling subplot, beyond the obvious angles of New England’s new-look top defense and much-maligned starting offense facing off against a new opponent for the first time:
Mac Jones versus Brian Burns.
The last time the Patriots and Panthers shared a field last November, Jones incensed Burns and kicked up a firestorm of controversy when he grabbed and twisted the Pro Bowl edge rusher’s ankle after a strip-sack.
Jones insisted he thought Burns has recovered the ball and was trying to tackle him. Burns didn’t buy it, calling that explanation “some bull” and essentially putting a hit out on the Patriots’ then-rookie quarterback.
“It would be nice to have an apology, Mac,” Burns told reporters in the days following the game, which New England won 24-6. “It would be nice to have an apology, but it’s not going to happen. However the NFL handles it is on them. I would just like to play them again. I wish all my D-end brothers happy hunting. That’s all.”
The NFL opted not to discipline Jones, and Burns, who sprained his ankle on the play and later left the game, returned the following week. It’s unclear whether his anger has subsided nine months later — he did pass up a chance to drill Jones during the 2022 Pro Bowl — but New England’s offensive linemen should be especially motivated to keep Burns out of the backfield this week.
And doing so will be easier said than done. Burns has 25.5 sacks since he entered the NFL in 2019, and O-line play has been a major issue for the Patriots this summer, with communication errors abounding as they introduce an updated offensive scheme.
Even if defenders are forbidden from hitting quarterbacks during all practices, joint sessions included, the Patriots don’t want a potentially ticked-off Burns getting anywhere near their franchise passer. He’ll be a challenging matchup for fill-in right tackle Yodny Cajuste, who’s enjoyed a strong summer in relief of the injured Isaiah Wynn, and left-side starter Trent Brown.
NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.