New England quarterback Mac Jones leads the Patriots in a practice session in Frankfurt, ahead of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Michael Probst/Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany — Mac Jones was looser than he’d been all season on Friday afternoon.

As the third-year Patriots quarterback fielded questions following practice, he cracked a bald joke about one reporter, suggested another had a future as an offensive coordinator, and seemed at entirely at ease. Obviously winning is priority No. 1 in Sunday’s international showcase, but Jones said he’d also be taking some time to soak in the environment and really enjoy the opportunity this weekend.

“Absolutely. You know, I told the guys, ‘Who would’ve thought when you’re little that you’d be playing in a game internationally in the NFL?’ It’s pretty cool,” Jones said. “Try not to focus on anything else besides playing the game that we’ve played since we were little. That’s very important and we’re looking forward to putting on a good show.”

Though the Patriots are a long shot for a winning season at 2-7, Jones believes a victory in Germany leading into New England’s bye week could really get the ball rolling in the right direction.

“I always talk about try not to focus on the results, but there can be great momentum in this game,” Jones said. “It’s a momentum game, within each game and within game to game. I’m looking forward to going out there and competing and trying to get a win on the board. Like you said, get into the bye week and focus on building momentum.”

• An ankle injury isn’t the only thing that’s keeping New England offensive tackle Trent Brown stateside this weekend. Brown was listed on the injury report with the ankle issue, but also missed Wednesday’s practice due to personal reasons.


When asked whether Brown didn’t join his teammates in Germany because of the ankle or the personal situation, Coach Bill Belichick’s response with straightforward on Friday morning.

“Both,” Belichick said as the Patriots readied for practice at DFB Campus in Frankfurt.

Brown isn’t the only player who had personal issues playing into a German absence. JC Jackson was left home after missing curfew ahead of last Sunday’s loss to the Commanders, and was listed as out with a “not injury related (personal)” designation.

BENGALS: Receiver Tee Higgins is out for Sunday’s game against the Texans and receiver Ja’Marr Chase is questionable due to injuries.

Defensive end Sam Hubbard (ankle) was also listed as out for the game on Friday’s injury report.

Higgins, who had eight catches for a season-high 110 yards in last Sunday’s win over Buffalo, has a hamstring injury, and Chase is having back issues. Chase leads all Cincinnati receivers with 697 yards and four touchdowns.


VIKINGS: Minnesota listed wide receiver Justin Jefferson as questionable to play Sunday against New Orleans after a productive first week back at practice following the hamstring strain that has kept him out of the last four games.

Vikings Coach Kevin O’Connell said earlier that playing Jefferson this week would “probably be a little aggressive.” But he declined to close the door Friday on putting the 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year on the field against the Saints.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s hamstring injury will keep him out for a second straight game.

The Steelers (5-3) officially ruled the perennial Pro Bowler out for Sunday’s visit from Green Bay (3-5) after his sat out practice for a third straight day. Fitzpatrick sustained the injury in the first quarter of a loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 29.

The Steelers also ruled out defensive tackle Montravius Adams with an ankle injury. Rookie Keeanu Benton could be in the mix to start with Adams unavailable.

PACKERS: Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander and linebacker Quay Walker are doubtful for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Alexander missed three games earlier this season with a back injury, but it’s a shoulder issue that has prevented him from practicing the last three days. Walker is dealing with a groin injury that likely will cause him to miss a second straight game.

BROWNS: Cleveland starting rookie right tackle Dawand Jones will miss Sunday’s game at Baltimore with shoulder and knee injuries, further depleting the offensive line as it gets ready to face one of the NFL’s top defenses.

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