James White’s future in the NFL was very much in question last September. The veteran running back had suffered a hip subluxation in the second quarter of the New England Patriots’ game against the New Orleans Saints.
Forced to undergo season-ending surgery, White found a major question mark next to his name heading into the recovery process. The 30-year-old acknowledged so himself during his first public remarks after going down; speaking to reporters on a video conference call on Monday, White said that he doubted his ability to continue his career.
“Being kind of confined to bed for the first few months and not being able to really move around and do things for myself, you think to yourself, ‘How could I ever run and move and all that stuff ever again?,’” White said. “But, obviously, as the months go on, and things start to loosen up, you start kind of moving around, doing some of the normal things you used to do and just build that confidence back up again.
“I’m just feeling I’m in a good spot right now, and I’m just going to keep progressing and take it one day at a time. ... I’ve got better and better mentally, building the confidence back and feeling like I have the ability to go out there and compete at a high level. Each week, each month, I’ve been feeling better and better. I’m just trying to push myself as much as I can to make sure I feel as best as possible whenever I step back out there.”
White made encouraging progress through his rehabilitation, to a point where the Patriots felt confident retaining him as an unrestricted free agent. Before the market even opened on March 16, the long-time team captain was retained on a two-year deal worth up to $5 million.
While it remains to be seen how quickly White can return to the field, the team trusts his ability to make a comeback and contribute again.
“I didn’t really know what my free agency market was going to be like coming off this injury, whether anybody would want to quote/unquote take a chance on me and things of that nature,” White said. “But Bill [Belichick] had the confidence and wanted me back, so that was kind of important to me.
“To still be wanted after this is definitely something that helped me out a lot. Being wanted after an injury like that is not highly likely, especially at the running back position. That’s just the way it’s been. So, it was an easy decision for me. Bill is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and we’ve built a great relationship over the years. For him to still have the confidence in me means a lot.”
White originally arrived in the NFL in 2014, as a fourth-round draft selection by the Patriots. By 2016, he had established himself as the team’s primary receiving back and one of the most reliable running backs in the league. In total, appeared in 95 regular season and 12 playoff games before his season-ending injury last September.
Up until that point, he also showed some good chemistry with the Patriots’ rookie quarterback, Mac Jones. Catching 12 passes on 14 targets for a combined 94 yard, he was actually the team’s leading receiver at the time that he went down versus the Saints,
White’s future is still uncertain, but he appears to be trending in a positive direction. The Patriots and their head coach apparently evaluate the situation it the same way.