With players arriving at Gillette Stadium this week for Covid-19 testing, the New England Patriots’ focus officially shifts from the offseason towards training camp. This means that decisions will soon have to be made about which players to keep on the active team as on-field activities begin, and which to move to the physically unable to perform (PUP) or non-football injury lists (NFI) to open camp.
The Patriots have numerous candidates for the PUP distinction, and among them is running back Sony Michel. The third-year man, who served as the team’s lead rusher since getting drafted in the first round back in 2018, had to undergo foot surgery in May and is reportedly not yet at a point at which he will be a safe bet to be medically cleared for camp: according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Michel’s status “remains up in the air” for the time being.
Should the 25-year-old indeed open training camp on PUP and still be on the list once the gradual ramp-up period starts on August 12, second-year running back Damien Harris is the frontrunner to take his place in the lineup. Harris did just that when Michel missed time last offseason before himself essentially redshirting and seeing only minimal action throughout his first regular season as a pro.
Michel, meanwhile, is in a familiar situation. Coming off a solid rookie season and impressive three-game postseason stretch, he was forced to sit out parts of New England’s offseason preparation last year after undergoing a knee arthroscopy — one that forced him to miss all of mandatory minicamp and to open the Patriots’ training camp on the PUP list. He eventually returned to the practice fields in late July, though, while gradually increasing his workload and appearing in all 17 of the team’s games during the 2019 season.
Along the way, Michel carried the football 247 times during the regular season while gaining 912 yards and finding the end zone seven times, before adding 61 yards on 14 carries during the Patriots’ lone playoff contest. He also added 103 yards on 14 combined receptions and lost one of his two fumbles on the season.
The Patriots are expected to hold their pre-training camp physicals — which are conducted separately from the two Covid-19 tests each players will have to take — over the weekend or early next week. At that point, Michel and the rest of the roster will be given the appropriate distinctions for camp.