Getty Images

Mac Jones has been bruised and battered in his second year as the Patriots' quarterback. And now his starting job might be in jeopardy. The 2021 first-rounder has missed New England's last two games with a high-ankle sprain, and while ESPN reports he has a "decent chance" of returning in Week 6 against the Browns, coach Bill Belichick would not confirm Jones' availability while addressing reporters Wednesday. Not only that, but Belichick wouldn't commit to Jones remaining the starter under center.

"We'll see," the coach said when asked if Jones will reclaim his QB1 role once healthy. "I don't know."

Belichick, to be clear, would not elaborate on much of anything related to the Patriots' QB situation. Asked if Jones' ankle is healing enough to warrant a return against Cleveland, he declined to comment until after Wednesday's practice, saying, "We'll see what it looks like today and go from there." He did deny, however, that the timeline for Jones' return has been influenced by the performance of emergency starter Bailey Zappe, calling the latter's efficient outings against the Packers and Lions "totally independent" of Jones' rehabilitation.

On the flip side, this isn't the first time Belichick has left the door open for Zappe, a fourth-round draft pick this year, to potentially start in place of Jones regardless of injury.

"I'm not going to get into a lot of hypotheticals on all those different things that might or might not happen," Belichick told WEEI earlier this week. "That's just, to me, a waste of time. I'm not going to sit around and dream up scenarios and all of that. We'll take things as they come and go from there."

Zappe has thrown two touchdowns and one interception, while completing 75 percent of his throws, filling in for Jones and veteran backup Brian Hoyer, whose relief efforts were short-lived due to a head injury. Jones, meanwhile, struggled to open 2022 even before hurting his ankle, enduring back spasms and throwing five interceptions during New England's 1-2 start.