The NFL’s summer break is almost over which means that training camp is right around the corner: later this week — on Sunday, July 21 — the first wave of players will report to the New England Patriots training camp. While this arrival process happens without much hubbub, the physical examination that will take place will determine the outlook for some of the players that have been nursing injuries during the offseason.
Judging by the Patriots’ final open practice of the offseason — the mandatory minicamp session on June 6 — there are nine players to take a closer look at; they were either limited or not spotted at all.
RB Sony Michel
Preparations for the upcoming season started with Michel being forced to sit out parts of New England’s offseason workouts, including all of mandatory minicamp, after undergoing a knee arthroscopy. While the procedure itself is relatively minor, it is the latest medical issue the 2018 first-round draft pick has to deal with: he already missed most of last year’s training camp and three regular season games because of two separate knee injuries.
When it comes to 2019, Michel is expected to be ready to go when training camp opens on July 25. That being said, the 24-year-old might see a somewhat limited work load due to the arrival of third-round rookie Damien Harris. Nevertheless, Michel will play a considerable role in New England’s offensive attack once more — having him available to start camp will therefore be big after his previous absence.
WR Demaryius Thomas
The veteran’s 2018 season ended because of a torn ACL suffered in late December. While Thomas’ rehabilitation process might allow him to participate in training camp at one point it would not be a surprise if that point came further down the line. The offseason signing, who sat out the Patriots’ OTA and minicamp sessions, is a prime candidate to open camp and possibly even the regular season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).
OT Isaiah Wynn
Wynn enters 2019’s training camp as one of the players in the spotlight: he is the top candidate to replace free agency departure Trent Brown as New England’s starting left tackle. However, the former first-round draft pick is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury suffered during last year’s preseason — an injury that forced him not only to sit out virtually all of last year but also to be limited during OTAs and minicamp.
The good news is that Wynn was at least present for minicamp even though he did not participate in any team drills. This should change next week: if he is cleared for the start of training camp, as is expected, the 23-year-old will see considerable action as Tom Brady’s blindside protector. The Patriots drafted him for that role and now he will get his chance to prove why the team invested in him.
OT Yodny Cajuste
New England drafted Cajuste in the third round this year but he has yet to take the field for the team after undergoing quad surgery in late March. When NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the surgery, he added that the 23-year-old would face a recovery schedule of three months before being fully cleared again. If that holds up, Cajuste should be able to take the field when the Patriots open camp next week.
If not, the team will place Cajuste on the PUP list to activate him further down the line. Either way, the West Virginia product should be expected back to return to the field sooner rather than later — which would be good news for a Patriots offensive line that has lost both its starter at left tackle (Trent Brown) and its swing/number three tackle (LaAdrian Waddle) in free agency.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Wise Jr’s third NFL campaign was off to a less-than-ideal start: the 24-year-old was unable to do any on-field work during the Patriots’ organized team activities and minicamp after being spotted in a walking boot earlier during the offseason. While there were no reports on why he was wearing said boot, it would not be a surprise if the Arkansas product underwent surgery on his ankle — one that forced him to miss the AFC title game in late January.
Despite the injury and Wise Jr. missing considerable parts of the offseason workout program, however, the injury is not expected to affect the 24-year-old heading into the new season. The situation is therefore somewhat reminiscent of Joe Thuney’s last year: New England’s starting left guard underwent offseason surgery but ultimately returned for training camp after sitting out OTAs and minicamp. He ended up playing all 1,371 offensive snaps during the season.
While Wise Jr. is more of a rotational player than Thuney and every recovery is differently, it would not be a surprise to see him back on the field next week.
SS Patrick Chung
When the Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in early February, Chung had his right arm in a sling: he left the Super Bowl early in the third quarter after breaking his arm. When New England opened its OTA practices, however, the veteran safety was back on the field. And even though he was not spotted during the club’s three minicamp practices, the team captain is expected to be with his teammates when they take the field for their first training camp session.
RB Nick Brossette, CB J.C. Jackson, SS Nate Ebner, SS Malik Gant
Brossette, Jackson and Ebner were all absent for the Patriots’ final practice of minicamp — but there have been no reports yet as to why that was the case. Jackson’s absence might be the most straight forward of the three, though: he pulled up lame after a drill late during New England’s second minicamp session and was not spotted the next day. The second-year man should be expected back on the field to start camp.
Whether or not the same can be said about undrafted rookie Brossette remains to be seen: he was not spotted even once during the four offseason workouts open to the media. Ebner also was not, but he did participate in the Patriots’ paintball game to close out offseason workouts. This should be seen as a positive sign that the core special teamer will be ready to practice again beginning next week.
Then, there is undrafted rookie Malik Gant: he left the field during the stretching portion of the Patriots’ final minicamp session and did not return. He will probably be back next week, but any additional time missed because of injury could severely hurt his chances of making the club (as is the case with fellow roster bubble player Brossette).