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Bill Belichick gives promising assessment of Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan at the start of training camp

Related: Patriots clear linebacker Raekwon McMillan from physically unable to perform

NFL: JUL 30 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Raekwon McMillan appeared poised to earn a role in the New England Patriots’ linebacker rotation last summer. Unfortunately, a torn ACL suffered early in training camp changed his outlook and forced him to spend the entire 2021 campaign rehabbing.

Despite the injury, the Patriots showed their commitment to McMillan just one month later. They signed him to a one-year contract extension, making sure to keep working with him the following season as well. That season has now arrived, and it appears the 26-year-old is indeed trending in the right direction — at least if Bill Belichick is to be believed.

The Patriots’ head coach was asked about McMillan ahead of Wednesday’s training camp practice, and his assessment was a promising one.

“Raekwon works really hard,” Belichick said. “Really smart player, has experience, understands a lot at the linebacker position. Obviously there’s a lot going on there, but he handles things well; signal caller, multiple-position player. And it’s good to see him back out there.

“He looks like he’s recovered very well, and based on what we saw in the spring and the limited looks here this first week I’d say he’s doing very well.”

A second-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2017, McMillan is a veteran of five NFL seasons but had to spend two of those on injured reserve: he missed his entire rookie campaign after tearing the ACL in his right knee on his first preseason snap; he later hurt his left knee with the Patriots and had sit out all of 2021.

In between, he appeared in a combined 45 games during stints in Miami and with the Las Vegas Raiders. He accumulated 204 tackles and forced three fumbles with one recovery, but never quite lived up to his status as a 54th overall pick. Accordingly, the Patriots were able to acquire him on the relative cheap last year.

They liked what they saw, and were ready to use McMillan as a top-three player at the off-the-ball linebacker position, but his knee injury changed his outlook. One year later, though, he appears to be right back where he left off: competing for a prominent spot at linebacker.