Patriots QB Mac Jones practices, Bailey Zappe ready

Jones was limited in practice Thursday, but reportedly will be available to start against the Bears on Monday night after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. But Zappe, impressive in three games (two starts) in Jones’ place, could get the call.

SHARE Patriots QB Mac Jones practices, Bailey Zappe ready
Patriots coach Bill Belichick (left) talks with quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ victory over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.

Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe (4, with coach Bill Belichick) is 2-0 in place of injured starter Mac Jones.

Nick Cammett, Getty

Sticking with the impressive rookie over the established starter coming off an injury has worked out pretty well historically for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has that decision to make again this week.

Patriots starter Mac Jones, who practiced on a limited basis Thursday, expects to be ready to play against the Bears on Monday night at Gillette Stadium after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, according to an ESPN report. But hot rookie Bailey Zappe still might get the call.

The Bears aren’t sweating the decision. They expect to face an efficient quarterback either way. Zappe, a fourth-round draft pick from Western Kentucky by way of Houston Baptist, has a 111.4 passer rating (72.9% completions, four touchdowns, one interception) in three games, including two starts, with senior football advisor Matt Patricia calling the plays.

“I don’t think it matters that much, because I think Belichick and Patricia are gonna run what they’re gonna run regardless of who’s at quarterback,” Bears linebacker Roquan Smith said. “They’re gonna try to run it down our throats is what we think they’re gonna do and what they’ve been doing all year. So I think their game plan still is gonna be pretty similar, regardless of who’s back there.”

Zappe was impressive in relief of backup Brian Hoyer in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Packers in Week 4, then led the Patriots (3-3) to victories over the Lions (49-0) and Browns (38-15) in his two starts. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 118.4 passer rating against the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.

So even if Jones is ready, Belichick could ride the hot hand. Jones has a 76.2 passer rating (two touchdowns, five interceptions) in three starts after an impressive rookie season. Zappe would be making only his third NFL start, but with the Patriots, that’s not the opportunity it might seem to be.

“Those guys up in New England do a great job of taking a lot off

his plate, so it’s just about what they allow him to do,” Smith said. “I think it’s really gonna start with us — when we stop the run, it’s gonna make them one-dimensional, and that’ll make it a lot tougher for them.”

Knock on wood

The Bears had full attendance at practice Thursday with no injuries reported, a rare occurrence at any point of an NFL season.

For the Patriots, wide receiver Nelson Agholor (hamstring) was the only player who didn’t practice. But nine players were limited, including starting tackle Isaiah Wynn (shoulder) and starting guard Mike Onwenu (ankle).

Harry situation

Bears receiver N’Keal Harry participated fully in practice for the first time since returning from injured reserve and seems on target to play against his former team.

“He’s looking good. We are certainly pleased with where he is right now,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “I think it’s exciting any time you’ve spent some time at a certain place and you get a chance to play at that same arena with some guys that you know.”

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