With the New England Patriots’ upcoming game against the New York Jets taking place on Monday night, the team did not return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium until Thursday. One player among those participating in the session was running back Sony Michel, meaning that he has now been designated to return from the injured reserve list.
Michel was originally moved to injured reserve before the Patriots’ Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming off the best game of his season up until that point — one during which he gained 117 rushing yards on nine carries and also caught two passes for 23 yards — the former first-round draft pick popped up on New England’s injury report that Wednesday and as a result was a limited participant all week.
Michel was later deactivated for the road game in Kansas City and just a few hours after the announcement was sent to IR. Accordingly, he had to sit out three games before being allowed to return to practice. While he was therefore eligible to come back last week, it took him until today to rejoin his teammates.
While Michel was out, the Patriots turned to Damien Harris as their new lead back. The second-year runner, who was selected in the third round of last year’s draft, fared well in this increased role: he carried the football 49 times over the last four games while gaining an average of 5.1 yards per attempt for a total of 279. Harris also scored his first career touchdown along the way and added two catches for 26 combined yards.
For comparison, Michel received 26 carries over his three pre-injury games which he took for 173 yards with a 6.7-yard average. He also found the end zone once and added 23 yards on two receptions.
Needless to say that it will be interesting to see how the Patriots decide to split reps between the two once Michel actually returns to the 53-man roster. After his return today, the team has 21 days to activate him. If such an activation does not take place, however, Michel would spend the remainder of the season in injured reserve (see defensive tackle Beau Allen as an example for this).
The Patriots, who could therefore get Michel back onto their active team as soon as the Monday night contest in New York, also have fellow running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and J.J. Taylor on their 53-man squad.