Bill Belichick hopes Jack Jones’ and Jake Bailey’s team-imposed suspensions won’t spell the end of their Patriots tenures.
The New England head coach said Monday in his end-of-season video conference that he’s hopeful both players can return to the team and contribute in the future.
“Both players have been contributors to the team and hopefully will be in the future,” Belichick said. “I’m not going to comment on the suspension part of it. There’s been a grievance filed and so forth, so that will all run its course. We’ll deal with that as it comes. But yeah, both players are talented players that have contributed to the team and, I think, have a future with the team. At least that’s the way I feel at this point, yeah.”
Belichick declined to explain why the team suspended Bailey, their former All-Pro punter, and Jones, their promising rookie cornerback, but did say their punishments were “separate matters.” Both players were on injured reserve at the time, and reports indicated the bans were related to their respective rehab processes.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported Jones was suspended because he missed multiple rehab sessions after suffering a knee injury during the team’s Week 14 win in Arizona. Jones’ agent said in a statement that he hoped the fourth-round draft pick and the Patriots could reach an “amicable resolution.”
Jones looked like a potential star in the making this season, returning an Aaron Rodgers interception for a touchdown in Week 4 and ranking as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded cornerback for several consecutive weeks. He and fellow rookie Marcus Jones were the headliners of New England’s encouraging 2022 draft class.
Bailey’s agent expressed surprise over his client’s suspension, saying the punter “never missed a single treatment, meeting or practice” and “was hoping to come off IR to play” in the team’s final two games. Bailey’s camp filed a grievance over his suspension, which could void the guaranteed money in his contract for the 2023 season and make it easier for the Patriots to release him this offseason if they choose to do so.
Belichick disputed the agent’s account after Sunday’s 35-23 road loss to the Buffalo Bills but declined to share the team’s perspective, saying only that Bailey was “unavailable.” Bailey ranked last in the NFL in yards per punt and net punting average before a back injury landed him on IR in November, but the Patriots missed his powerful leg on kickoffs. That was especially true against the Bills, who scored two kick-return touchdowns in their Week 18 win.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Sunday wrote “it’s hard to imagine (Bailey) playing for the team again.” He and Jones both have three years remaining on their respective Patriots contracts.