For another offseason, New England Patriots starting running back Sony Michel looks questionable to play throughout training camp.
Fortunately, this isn’t the kind of surgery that ends a season; Reiss clarified it was “more maintenance based to relieve discomfort Michel had been experiencing.”
The third-year RB has already returned to Foxborough to begin rehab, but there’s a chance he’ll begin the offseason on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. New England’s training camp begins in late July, which should give him plenty of time to assess whether he’s capable of running typical drills.
When the Patriots chose Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there was palpable worry about his history of knee injuries coming out of Georgia.
These fears weren’t unmerited. He had fluid drained from his knee before his first game, and he underwent a knee scope in the summer of 2019.
This is the third straight offseason where he may not play all of training camp due to a medical issue, and the first time it isn’t his knee. On the bright side, he’s only ever missed three games due to the injury bug, and this surgery doesn’t look to risk any more.
Michel has been the most reliable rushing option for New England, even if he doesn’t appear in as many highlights as most backs around the league. He’s nearly reached 1000 yards in his first two seasons, and has already racked up 19 career touchdowns.
The Patriots have lots of reinforcements at the running back position
If something does go awry as training camp progresses and Michel can’t suit up for Week 1, New England has a total of five other backs they can call upon to enter the fray. These are: the stellar pass-catcher James White, the multi-faceted Rex Burkhead, the eternal third-stringer Brandon Bolden, and two unknowns in second-year rusher Damien Harris and new rookie J.J. Taylor (Arizona).
We know White and Burkhead can excel when fed the ball, and even Bolden will play well when given the chance. Harris and Taylor may lack experience at the NFL level, but coach Bill Belichick loves giving as many players as he can a chance to prove themselves, and gathering rookie running backs is just another way to do so.
Between former Patriots like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LeGarrette Blount, and Stevan Ridley, Belichick’s also known for letting his workhorse backs go to another team unexpectedly and plugging the hole with someone else.
This is a real prove-it year for Michel if he doesn’t want to be replaced. Not only does he have five players behind him ready to occupy a more significant role, but the market for paying running backs has gotten a little more uncertain in recent times due to injuries and holdouts.
The New England Patriots will have a lot of cap room in 2021, and a star running back could be a reasonable free-agent signing come then.
For now, we’ll hope Sony Michel’s foot surgery is a very minor setback and that he’ll be ready to take the field against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.