Mac Jones is facing growing accusations of being a dirty player.
On Wednesday, the New England quarterback addressed those accusations while speaking with Patriots media.
"Yeah, I think obviously that's a big part of it is everybody has an opinion," Jones said. "The biggest thing for me is just focus 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."
— NESN (@NESN) December 28, 2022
Jones faces criticism after a hit on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple on Saturday. He dove at Apple's feet as both trailed Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt on a fumble return that was negated when the play was ruled an incomplete pass.
What is Mac Jones doing here? 🧐pic.twitter.com/Rjgf8AHY20
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 25, 2022
Jones didn't draw a flag for the low hit. He did draw the ire of Apple, who told reporters postgame that it was a "dirty play."
“He tripped me,” Apple told reporters. “I thought it was a dirty play. He’s done that before. I’ve seen it.”
The hit prompted more allegations of past dirty play, from media and from Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay.
Jones heard the criticism and previously characterized his hit on Apple as "part of the game" in a Monday radio interview with WEEI. It's a sentiment he repeated during Wednesday's news conference.
"I went down in front of him to kind of get in the way to stop him from slowing down Tyquan, who obviously could make the tackle there" Jones told WEEI. "So just kind of went down in front of him, trying to stop a fast guy from getting to another fast guy. It's a split-second decision, and there's a lot that goes into it.
"There's no hard feelings and definitely no intention to hurt anybody on that play. Nor do I believe that when I'm playing quarterback that's what [the defense is trying to do]. I get hit a lot, too. We're all out there playing hard. It's just part of the game."
“I’m just focused on the Dolphins."
New England (7-8) hosts Miami (8-7) on Sunday.