Before the start of training camp, the New England Patriots decided to send a handful of players to their physically unable to perform (PUP) and non-football injury (NFI) lists. While some of them were activated over the summer, six remained on the reserve lists when roster cutdown day came around in late August.
The biggest name among them was already removed off the Patriots’ PUP list earlier this month: star cornerback Stephon Gilmore was traded to the Carolina Panthers in return for a sixth-round draft choice in 2023. As for the other five, they are now eligible to return to practice under NFL rules.
Let’s take a look at them.
Physically Unable to Perform list
QB Jarrett Stidham: For the second year in a row, an injury robbed the former fourth-round draft pick of a chance to compete for New England’s starting quarterback position; Stidham missed all of training camp and preseason after undergoing back surgery in July. Now eligible to return to practice, his outlook is very much uncertain given that rookie Mac Jones is firmly entrenched as the Patriots’ starter. Stidham is little more than a backup option or potential trade commodity at this point in time, but he could be given a chance to return to the 53-man roster if the coaching staff sees him as an upgrade over current QB2 Brian Hoyer.
DT Byron Cowart: After ending the 2020 season as the Patriots’ number four interior defensive lineman in terms of snaps played, Cowart was forced to spend the summer and early portions of the regular season on the PUP list for undisclosed reasons. With fellow D-lineman Henry Anderson out for the remainder of the year, New England might want to bring the third-year man back onto its active roster as a depth option to align between the 1- and 4-technique spots.
LB Terez Hall: Losing Raekwon McMillan to a torn ACL hurt New England’s off-the-ball linebacker depth, and while bringing Jamie Collins back helped bolster the position the team might feel more confident with another proven player available. Hall might be just that. He played eight games last year but had to undergo ankle surgery in the offseason; he would be a possible upgrade over current bottom-of-the-roster linebacker Jahlani Tavai.
Non-Football Injury list
LB Cameron McGrone: When the Patriots selected McGrone in the fifth round of this year’s draft they knew his outlook for 2021 was unclear. After all, he had torn his ACL not even half a year earlier and was still in the process of rehabbing. The expectation is that he will at best play a limited role this season; more realistically, McGrone will be kept on the non-football injury list throughout the rest of the season.
DB Joshuah Bledsoe: A sixth-round rookie, Bledsoe offers intriguing versatility for a secondary that faces some questions about its depth. While likely not a starter-caliber player at this stage in his career, there is a chance New England’s coaching staff might want to get him onto the 53-man squad as competition for current cornerback depth options Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade.
Now that six weeks of regular season action are over, all five of the players listed here can return to practice. They will have to do so within the next six weeks, or else they will stay on PUP/NFI for the remainder of the year.
If they do return, a 21-day window will open during which New England will have to make a decision. Returning players will either be activated to the 53-man roster, be released, or revert to PUP/NFI and miss the rest of the season there.