As if losing 31-17 to a division rival was not bad enough, the New England Patriots also suffered a series of injuries against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Among the players going down was wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, and he will not be able to return the rest of the year.
The 28-year-old, who was the Patriots’ most productive pass catcher this season, suffered a torn ACL in the early fourth quarter. An MRI conducted on Monday confirmed the severity of the injury that will force Bourne to spend at least the next six months in recovery.
The Patriots, meanwhile, will feel his absence both on the field and in the locker room.
“Heartbroken for Kendrick, honestly,” said team captain Matthew Slater. “You never want to see any of your teammates go through something like that, but especially him. I think he’s been through so much the last couple of years, and he’s really grown tremendously in his faith and who he is as a man, and that’s been so fun to watch.
“I think more than anyone in our entire building, Kendrick brings authenticity. He is true to himself. He is the same person each and every day. He brings a contagious energy that I think is unmatched in this building. His positivity is unmatched, and we’ll certainly miss that. I don’t know if I’ve ever played with someone who’s had the type of joy that Kendrick has.”
An undrafted free agent in 2017, Bourne started his career with the San Francisco 49ers before moving to New England in 2021. He quickly developed a bond with quarterback Mac Jones, that led to him having a productive first season with the club.
However, a change atop the offensive coaching staff put him in a difficult spot the following season. Bourne found himself playing a limited role, and as a consequence was unable to build on what was an encouraging first campaign as a Patriot.
The early parts of 2023 saw him return to his old form, and he developed into Jones’ favorite and most trusted target this season.
“KB, everyone knows KB: he’s a really nice, fun guy,” Jones told WEEI’s Jones & Mego show on Monday afternoon. “Obviously a great teammate, but brings a different element of energy. Just thinking about the first day when I threw with him at some public park, just coming out smiling, laughing. He’s just always laughing and smiling. I enjoy that about him, he always brings positivity.”
Bourne entered the game in Miami with 34 catches for 370 yards and three touchdowns to his name, ranking first on the team in all three of those categories. He added three more receptions for 36 yards and a score versus the Dolphins, but after his final reception remained on the ground.
He gingerly walked off the field alongside members of the New England medical staff, and after a brief time in the blue medical tent departed for the locker room. Soon thereafter, Bourne was ruled out for the remainder of the game — an ominous sign.
Monday confirmed the fears that he had suffered a major injury.
Now, Bourne is staring at a months-long rehabilitation process. To make matters worse he is also losing out on his contract incentives and remaining roster bonuses, and is headed toward unrestricted free agency with a medical red flag attached to his right knee.
“Your heart’s broken for him,” said Slater. “You hate that that’s part of the game, and you’ll certainly be praying for a speedy and full recovery.”
As for the Patriots themselves, they will be losing their most productive pass catcher. And given how inconsistent their offense has been so far even with him in the lineup, it will only make matters more difficult on that side of the ball.
That is true on the field, where Bourne was a reliable presence, and off it.
“It’s been extremely important for our football team to have a guy like that,” said Slater. “It’s so rare, so unique, because it’s authentic. In football, there oftentimes is what I call ‘fake juice’ — guys coming in here hooting and hollering, but it’s not authentic and you can see straight through it, especially if you’ve been in a locker room for a long time. He didn’t have that at all.
“He’s a very authentic person, and I think, as a result of that, it lifted everybody’s spirit. Certainly, the last couple of years — or over the time he’s been here — there have been some challenging times. Single-handedly he’s been able to lift guys’ spirits, and just provide a unique boost.”
While losing Bourne hurts, the Patriots are well aware that they will have to find a way to move forward without him.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said guard Michael Onwenu. “Kendrick is definitely a guy for us, and a go-to guy. Definitely a guy that brings a lot of energy in, just brings a lot of love, and just juice, organically. Nothing forced, so it’s going to be a big miss on that.
“We just have to keep going and fight for him, and battle for him. Obviously it’s a big loss for our team, and we’ll miss him, but the season keeps going.”