The New England sky fell on Sunday, but we should start building it back up because the season is not over. Far from it. All three of these players can return for the 2016 season.
RB Dion Lewis is going to need another knee surgery, RT Sebastian Vollmer is battling lingering injuries to his head, shoulders, knees, and toes, and RG Shaq Mason suffered a broken hand. These three starters are going to miss some time.
But Lewis and Vollmer have not left the preseason physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means that both players can remain on the PUP list for the regular season.
The regular season PUP list allows players to return after week 6, with an additional six week window to start practicing (the day after the end of week 11, per the new PUP rules). Once players start practicing they have another three weeks before the team has to activate them to the roster. This means that both Lewis and Vollmer could return at any point between week 6 and week 15.
Now Lewis is currently slated to return in 8-10 weeks due to his surgery, which puts him right in line with the early window of the PUP list. He could still play for the final ten games of the regular season.
Vollmer, on the other hand, has an unknown timetable- but the team doesn’t have to put him on the injured reserve, like it was originally reported. Unless Vollmer has a surgery that absolutely has a six month recovery window, the Patriots would be wise to keep him on the PUP list so he has a chance to return in December after four months of rest.
Mason is not on the PUP list so he follows different rules. The Patriots could place him on the injured reserve (IR) until he is healthy, and then designate him as the short-term IR player after six weeks. He would return in line with Lewis and those on the PUP list.
Alternatively, we have no idea what the recovery schedule is for a “broken hand.” It could be three weeks. It could be three months. If the hand injury is minor enough, then the Patriots don’t have to put Mason on any sort of reserve list and he can just be a game-day inactive for the first couple weeks of the season and be ready to roll by the time QB Tom Brady returns from his suspension in week 5.
But whether the team takes advantage of the PUP list (Lewis, Vollmer, along with WR Danny Amendola and RG Tre Jackson), or the short-term IR (Mason), there is still hope that all of these players could be back for the back-half of the season and for the playoff push.