EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sauce Gardner said his post-whistle shove of Mac Jones on Sunday was a response to a below-the-belt smack from the Patriots quarterback.

The altercation in question came after a fourth-quarter QB sneak in New England’s 15-10 victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Gardner sounded bemused as he discussed it with reporters postgame.

“That’s probably the first time that ever happened to me,” last season’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year said in the Jets locker room. “He had got tackled, and he reached his hand up to try to get me to help him up, and I just moved his hand out of the way. Then he gets up and he just comes up to me like, ‘Good job.’ While he said that, he hit me in my private parts, you know what I mean? I didn’t react how I really wanted to, but that was just the reaction that came. After that. I definitely wasn’t expecting that. First time for everything, I guess.”

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Gardner said his “stomach was hurting a little bit” after Jones’ alleged low blow.

“I don’t even know what to say,” the cornerback told reporters. “I do got to ice up. He’s trying to stop me from having kids in the future. He’s tripping.”

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Jones angered multiple Jets defenders on the play. His attempt to drive for additional yards after the whistle prompted linebacker C.J. Mosley to body-slam him. Gardner then shoved Jones to the ground after he got to his feet.

Asked whether he believed he did anything wrong on the play, Jones replied: “Um, no.”

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“I think just trying to get the first down,” the QB said. “… Definitely a physical play. A lot of guys are in there. It’s kind of the famous quarterback sneak that everybody does. All the guys on both teams are in there, so it can get pretty physical. That’s something I have to learn from — getting my pads a little bit lower so that I can get it and not get held up.”

Jones has been labeled as a dirty player in the past, with opponents criticizing him for his ankle twist against Carolina in 2021 and his spikes-up slides against Chicago last season. Gardner’s accusation won’t help the QB’s reputation.

Featured image via Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports Images