Eight sessions into training camp, Stephon Gilmore has yet to join his New England Patriots teammates on the practice fields. The star cornerback has been spotted among the rehabbing players working out on the lower fields, but as of Thursday remains among the six currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Despite his status, however, Gilmore has continued to play a prominent role within the locker room. As cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino pointed out during a media conference call on Wednesday, the 30-year-old has transitioned into sort of a coaching role within the position group.
“Love Steph, great guy,” Pellegrino said about Gilmore. “Right now, he’s ‘Coach Steph.’ He’s working the other part of his game. Working off the field, trying to get better, he’s rehabbing. He’s getting there. Taking it one day at a time, but in the meantime, he always helps the younger guys. He’s doing his part. He’s being a good teammate. He’s been great in the room.
“Steph, he leads in his own way, which is great. Don’t try and make anybody who they’re not. He talks, guys listen, which is great. Not going to ask him to do anything more than what he does.”
A former first-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills, Gilmore is about to enter his fifth season since arriving in New England. Despite the success he has enjoyed over the first four of them, he has been the subject of constant speculation throughout the offseason.
At the center of it all is his contract situation. Heading into the final season of the five-year, $65 million deal he signed with the Patriots in 2017, Gilmore is looking for either a new long-term deal or at the very least a pay increase for 2021. No common ground has been reached so far, though, with the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year already having held out of mandatory minicamp in an apparent protest.
Despite all that, Gilmore did report to training camp on time before being sent to PUP. The injury designation is the result of him still recovering from a season-ending partial quad tear suffered last December, but it simultaneously also allows him to stay off the practice fields during his ongoing contract talks.
The rest of the team is left to work out without him, but Pellegrino’s statements show that he still remains involved.
In the meantime, his future remains uncertain. Safety Devin McCourty, however, mentioned last week that having Gilmore in the lineup improves the quality of the New England defense as a whole.
“He’s really made this defense operate at a different level when he’s out there,” said the longtime team captain. “Anytime I get an opportunity to be out there on the field with him, it gives us a better chance to win, makes us a better defense. So, it is great having him here in the locker room and on this team.”