Sunday was a bad day for the New England Patriots. Not only did they drop to 4-6 thanks to a disappointing 27-20 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans, they also lost two offensive cornerstones to injury along the way: starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Rex Burkhead were both unable to finish the game.
While there is not update available yet regarding Wynn’s status, the expectation is that Burkhead will miss the remainder of the season: the Patriots fear that he tore his ACL on Sunday. As a result, his season will likely come to an end after what had been a promising start. Before his injury, after all, he had touched the football 92 times for 466 yards and six touchdowns — ranking second on the team in all three categories.
Needless to say that Burkhead’s loss will be felt, and his teammates’ reactions after the game in Houston also reflected this.
“I’m hurt for him. I’m still hurting for him,” said fellow running back James White, who was visible impacted by Burkhead’s injury suffered. “A good friend of mine, not just a teammate, a guy I call my friend. To see him go down like that is never good. He was having a great year as well. Making huge plays for us. It’s just tough, man. Just hate to see it.”
White and Burkhead have been teammates since the latter arrived in New England during the 2017 offseason; they are the two longest-tenured running backs currently on the Patriots’ roster. Burkhead did have his fair share of injuries since he joined the team three years ago, but none of them were of the season-ending variety like the one he supposedly suffered versus the Texans.
That diagnosis has not yet been confirmed, but it seems only a matter of when and not if that happens.
“You never want to lose your brother or your teammate,” added wide receiver Damiere Byrd. “Obviously, Rex has been great for us throughout the season and it was very tough to see him go down. We’re praying for him and hoping that he makes a speedy recovery and that that injury isn’t too bad.”
As noted above, Burkhead has played a valuable role for New England’s offense this season. While Sony Michel and later Damien Harris have seen most of the carries on early downs, he has served as a rotational change-of-pace option alongside them. In this role, the 30-year-old had been on the field for 269 of a possible 662 offensive snaps (40.6%) — most among all running backs on the Patriots’ active roster.
Furthermore, he has added 112 snaps in the kicking game — sixth highest on the team. Needless to say that Burkhead was prominently featured in two phases of the game and a true all-around player.
Unfortunately, however, it appears as if his season came to an end on a 3rd-and-1 run in the early third quarter on Sunday. Burkhead attempted to bounce to the outside, but he was tackled short of the line to gain and subsequently remained on the ground. He later had to be helped off the field before being carted to the locker room and quickly being ruled out for the remainder of the contest.
“It was extremely devastating knowing how great of a teammate he is, knowing how great of a leader he is, knowing what he brings to this team,” said quarterback Cam Newton following the game. “But he’s a warrior, and I know he’ll be back stronger.”
Regardless of his injury, there is little doubt that Burkhead will eventually be back on the field next year — too good was his season up to that point. The question, however, is where he will play: he is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason, and there is a chance that he has played his last game as a Patriot. Then again, Burkhead has proven himself as an important member not just of the team but its locker room as well.